Group A’s first match is one which will live long in the memory for those who witnessed it at the Stadio del Mare. It brought together Senegal, the African champions and Switzerland who finished as runners-up of the last FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup.
The first period saw Senegal race to a 4-1 lead with two goals in the first four minutes from Pape Koukpapi, one being a spectacular overhead kick with Ndiaga Mbaye and Ngalla Sylla adding the others. It was Dejan Stankovic who got the goal for the Swiss.
The Africans maintained their three goal advantage in the second period as Stankovic’s completed a hat-trick and Mo Jaeggy’s free-kick being cancelled out by Ibrahima Bakhoum, Sylla and Libasse Diagne.
The final period was thrilling: an open and spectacular passage of play which brought the crowd to the edge of their seats. Senegal actually increased their lead through Koukpapi’s third of the afternoon.
However, Switzerland then scored four times in six minutes and 19 seconds without reply to draw level as two own goals from Ndiaye and Diagne, plus strikes from Stephan Leu and Mo Jaeggy took the match to a penalty shoot-out.
It ended up being a battle of the game’s hat-trick heroes, the No9s Stankovic and Koukpapi. The Swiss missed with his effort, with Al Seyni Ndiaye pulling off a superb save to deny him. Koukpapi made no mistake with his chance.
The Europeans fightback proved to be fruitless with Senegal winning two points as a result of their shoot-out win. Neutrals in the stadium may argue that justice was done with the Africans doing just about enough in the 36 minutes to deserve victory.