While North Africa's fortunes in 11-a-side football have been on the wane in recent years, the region clearly rules the roost when it comes to futsal as Libya, Egypt and Morocco won the right to be the African representatives at the FIFA Futsal World Cup Thailand 2012.
CAF were forced to cancel the 2011 African Futsal Championship following Burkina Faso's withdrawal as hosts, so the three berths were decided via a home-and-away campaign. Disappointingly, a number of teams withdrew from qualifying, which meant Morocco and Libya were forced to play just two games, and Egypt three.
The Pharaohs did most of the hard work in the first leg of their final round encounter against Nigeria at home. The West Africans, who only arrived in Egypt in the early hours of the morning on the day of the match, managed to restrict the damage to a 1-0 deficit at half-time, but then gave away a further seven goals as the Egyptians ran out 8-2 winners with hat-tricks claimed by Ahmed Yosri and Moataz Sami and Ahmed Abou-Serie settling for a brace. Israel Banigo and Kabiru Olumide replied for the visitors, who did not play the second leg and withdrew from the competition, giving Egypt a place at the finals.
Libya, who won the African championship at home in 2008, opened up a four-goal lead in the first leg of their tie against South Africa, which was played in Tunisia. The return leg saw the Libyans take a two-goal lead into the dressing-rooms, giving South Africa a mountain to climb after the break. The hosts did manage to claw their way back into the game after scoring four goals without reply, but Libya then upped the pace and won 6-4 on the day and 10-4 aggregate.
Libya's Spanish coach Pablo Prieto said that it had been a very good game. "We had some difficulties, especially in the beginning of the second half, but we overcame these by defending against our opponents in their half. I am very happy with the win and with qualifying for the World Cup finals in Thailand,” he said. Abdulsallam Sharada was a hat-trick hero for the visitors, with Mohamed Shebli and Mahame Rajab scoring two of the other goals. The last tally for Libya was scored by goalkeeper Ramzi, who made the most of a South African power-play to score into an empty goal.
South African coach Quinton Allies says Libya put his side under pressure. "I was pleased the way we fought our way back into the match to lead 4-2 after being two goals down. I am hoping that this will provide a kick-start for futsal in South Africa and that we develop the game,” he said. South Africa's goals were scored by Rafique Hassim, who grabbed three, and Emmanuel Khetsi.
In Rabat, Morocco also had a four-goal lead after their 6-2 victory in Mozambique, but unlike the Libyans, Morocco came dangerously close to throwing it away as they allowed Mozambique a 4-1 win in the return leg. It was only Adil Habil's goal that gave the North Africans a 7-6 aggregate victory and a place at the finals.
The goalscorer said the players were not used to playing indoor in front of such a large crowd. "We struggled with the pressure and missed many opportunities because of a lack of concentration." Captain Yahia Baya added: "We will be playing our first World Cup in Thailand, thanks to our victory in Maputo. Now our coach Hicham Dguig will help us prepare and correct our mistakes."