Nigeria are taking part in their fourth FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup. At Rio 2006 and the last edition in Dubai in 2009 the Beach Eagles failed to make it past the first stage, despite a clutch of creditable performances and some closely fought games. However, a more impressive performance at Rio 2007 saw them win all three of their group games against the likes of France and Argentina. But it was another South American side, Uruguay, who cut their dream short at the quarter-final stage. In contrast to the last instalment of the global beach soccer showpiece, Nigeria will not be taking part in Ravenna 2011 as continental champions.
Built around a core of veterans from the Dubai 2009 campaign, the Nigerian squad arrive in Italy after finishing runners-up in the CAF qualifying tournament held from 16 to 19 June 2011 in Casablanca, Morocco. The Beach Eagles lost the deciding match to Senegal, who have become their arch-adversaries at continental level. Partial consolation came in the form of the top scorers’ crown which went to Isiaka Olawale, whose goals propelled his team to the final.
Nigeria are aiming to reassert their supremacy in African beach soccer, after the disappointment of losing the regional final to Senegal. They have a golden opportunity to do so in Ravenna, where head coach Adamu Audu has asked the Nigerian Football Federation to begin the build-up programme slightly earlier than planned, “to prepare us even better for the World Cup, which is a special, much more demanding event.”
Gabriel Agu, Ifeanyi Onigbo
Final aside, the Beach Eagles won all their matches in the preliminary tournament, netting 24 goals and conceding 20.
The numbers game
9 - The number of goals scored by Isiaka Olawale in ten matches played at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup to date.