Olawale shoots Nigeria to glory

In a thrilling decider in Durban, Nigeria defeated Côte d'Ivoire 7-4 to win the 2009 African Beach Soccer Championship. The two finalists will be CAF's representatives at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Dubai 2009, which will be played from 16 to 22 November.

A combination of clinical finishing and solid defending earned the Super Eagles their second continental title following on from their 2007 success. Integral to their triumph were the goals of forward Isiaka Olawale, whose 14 strikes over the course of the event earned him both the top scorer and best player awards.

We knew the whole country would be following the game so we were desperate not to lose. We deserve to be at the World Cup.
Nigeria forward Isiaka Olawale

Despite losing the decider, Côte d'Ivoire can be more than satisfied with their work in Durban, where they ended a series of four successive third-place finishes to finally take one of the continent's two allocated berths for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup. The Elephants had further cause for celebration with their keeper Kevin Enam picking up the award for best goalkeeper.

Senegal pipped Egypt to the last spot on the podium by prevailing 6-4 in their match for third place.

Three groups, two tickets
The champions won both their games in Group C, a 13-0 defeat of Mauritania in the wake of a fiercely contested 6-5 victory over Egypt, who joined the Super Eagles in the last four by virtue of their finishing as the best second-placed side from the group stage.

Côte d'Ivoire also made it two wins from two in their group, though things were considerably tighter, as evidenced by the Elephants' identical 7-6 wins over South Africa and Morocco. Group B winners Senegal, meanwhile, topped their section after following up a 3-2 victory over Mozambique with a penalty shoot-out win over Libya.

The semi-final fixtures could not have been closer or more exciting. The Lions of Teranga had Nigeria on the ropes for much of their game and led 6-5 with just five minutes on the clock. However, a late brace from Olawale turned the tie once more and secured a place in Dubai for the Eagles.

"We knew the whole country would be following the game so we were desperate not to lose," said Olawale. "Each one of us has a very important role to play out there, and that makes us stronger as a unit. During the tournament we improved with every game and so deserve to be at the World Cup.

Côte d'Ivoire, meanwhile, had to sweat even more to join Nigeria in the United Arab Emirates in November. After a late equaliser from the Elephants' Ludovic Ehounou took the match to extra time, the Ivorians then threatened to win it with a Djimi strike, only for Do'rom to level for the Pharaohs and force penalties.

"We've been striving to achieve this for a long time... I'm euphoric. To be able to defend my nation's colours at World Cup is a dream come true," said Kevin Boris Enam, the Ivorian captain and keeper who became the hero of the hour when he saved from Hany to secure the shoot-out victory.

Group A
1. Côte d'Ivoire
2. Morocco
3. South Africa

Morocco 4-2 South Africa
Côte d'Ivoire 7-6 Morocco
South Africa 6-7 Côte d'Ivoire

Group B
1. Senegal
2. Mozambique
3. Libya

Libya (3) 7-7 (4) Senegal
Mozambique (1) 6-6 (0) Libya
Senegal 3-2 Mozambique

Group C
1. Nigeria
2. Egypt
3. Mauritius

Mauritius 0-13 Nigeria
Egypt 10-3 Mauritius
Nigeria 6 -5 Egypt

Senegal 6-7 Nigeria
Côte d'Ivoire (4) 8-8 (3) Egypt
Morocco 9-3 Mozambique (fifth-place play-off)

Third-place play-off
Senegal 6-4 Egypt

Nigeria 7-4 Côte d'Ivoire