Day of surprises in African qualifying

The growth of beach soccer on the African continent has led to ever greater numbers of countries throwing their hat into the ring for the first time. And, on the evidence of Thursday’s action on the second day of the African qualifying tournament for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Ravenna/Italy 2011, these new boys are clearly not just here for the ride.

At the competition held on the sands of the Moroccan city of Casablanca, competition debutants Algeria and Madagascar both picked up historic wins to keep their hopes of reaching Ravenna alive. Beaten by established powers Senegal in their opening Group C game, the Algerians bounced back in style with a 5-3 victory over Côte d’Ivoire – continental runners-up last time out. Algeria are now level on three points with Senegal, who meet the Ivorians on Friday in the final game of the three-team section.

Over in Group B, Madagascar had already shown glimpses of their potential when giving reigning African champions Nigeria a serious scare in a 5-3 opening defeat. They continued to build on that promise by securing a solid 3-0 win over South Africa in Thursday’s second round of games – thus taking their first ever three points in an official beach soccer match.

The situation also remains well-balanced in Group A, where Egypt got their campaign off to a winning start thanks to a 4-3 success against Libya, a result which ushered the Libyans to the exit door. Next up for the Egyptians is a decisive clash for first place against hosts Morocco, who themselves beat Libya 7-5 in their opening game.

This qualifying tournament features nine national sides divided into three groups, with the winners of each section, plus the best second-placed team, progressing to the semi-finals. The two teams that reach the final will both be rewarded with a place at Ravenna/Italy 2011, which will take place between 1 and 11 September this year.