Although two veterans of the beach soccer scene emerged from the African Zone to qualify for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Ravenna/Italy 2011, it was a week of surprises and excitement in the Moroccan city of Casablanca. In the end, previous continental champions, Nigeria and Senegal, claimed spots in the world showpiece event, which will take place between 1 and 11 September this year, and it was the Senegalese that earned bragging rights with an impressive 7-4 win in the final.
The Beach Eagles won the event in 2009 and so were defending their trophy, having also won the 2007 edition of the event, but 2008 champions Senegal proved too much to handle at Ain Diab Beach. The two sides started out surprisingly slowly given that they had scored 36 goals between them to that point in the competition, but soon it was business as usual for the Senegalese, who rode the considerable shoulders of their two top scorers for the win on Sunday.
Towering No9 Pape Koukpaki was a constant menace in front of goal, and he bulged the net once in each period to bring his tournament total to eight goals in four matches. He will share the top scorer mantle with team-mate Babacar Fall, who got on the scoresheet in every match at the event, and added two in the last minute of the final’s second period to put the Senegalese in control of the match. Also with eight goals for the tournament, Nigeria’s Isiaka Olawale was named Most Valuable Player, and he did his best to keep the green-clad side in the final with a hat-trick.
Senegal’s Al Seyni Ndiaye won best goalkeeper after an impressive tournament that saw him post a string of acrobatic saves. Morocco’s coach Mustapha El Hadaoui was awarded the Fair Play award after his side beat Algeria in front of a raucous crowd earlier in the day to finish fifth. Also earlier on Sunday, Egypt beat Madagascar to take third, but only on penalties.
It was another impressive performance by the islanders, who were the revelation of the event. They were 3-0 ahead against Nigeria in the group stage before falling 5-3 in their opener, but they made no mistake in their next match to beat South Africa 3-0. That win was enough to make them the best second-placed finisher in the group stage, and they again pushed Nigeria to the limit in the semi-final before falling 7-6.
The big surprise in the other direction was Côte d'Ivoire, who were runners-up last time out. They lost both of their group matches, and claimed only some cold comfort with a victory over Libya in the 7th/8th place play-off. Also disappointing were South Africa, who had hosted all of the previous African qualifiers. They lost both of their matches with a minus-seven goal difference to finish the tournament dead last.
Sunday 19 June
Morocco 7-5 Algeria (5th/6th place match)
Madagascar 4-4 Egypt, a.e.t., 0-1 penalties (3rd/4th place match)
Senegal 7-4 Nigeria (Final)
7. Côte d'Ivoire
9. South Africa