Only four African sides now remain in the hunt for the two berths open to the continent at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Ravenna/Italy 2011, which takes place on 1-11 September. And while it is no surprise to see world finals regulars Senegal and reigning African champions Nigeria lining up in Saturday’s semi-finals, or fast-improving Egypt, few expected Madagascar to muscle into contention on their official tournament debut.
The Indian Ocean islanders won through to the last four as the best second-placed team in the group phase, which featured nine teams drawn into three sections, with the pool winners and the side with the next best record all progressing to the semis.
Madagascar, 3-0 victors over South Africa in Group B on Thursday, progressed when tournament hosts Morocco fell by the same scoreline to Group A winners Egypt on Friday. That result gave the unfancied new boys a superior goal difference to the Moroccans, much to the disappointment of the home fans on Casablanca’s Ain Diab Beach, where the regional competition is being held.
Madagascar will now do battle with Group B top dogs Nigeria, who swept to an 8-4 win over South Africa, with four of their goals coming from Olawale. Saturday’s showdown is a repeat of their group match earlier in the week, which ended in a closely contested 5-3 win for Nigeria.
The Egyptians, meanwhile, will now face Senegal in the semis, who made light of the dismissal of striker Koukpaki to beat Côte d’Ivoire 3-2 and top Group C.
The final takes place on Sunday, and though only one side can be crowned African champions, the losers will at least have the consolation of a place among the global elite at Ravenna/Italy 2011.
Friday 17 June
Senegal 3 – 2 Côte d'Ivoire
Nigeria 8 – 4 South Africa
Morocco 0 – 3 Egypt
Saturday 18 June
Libya – Côte d'Ivoire (7th/8th place)
Nigeria – Madagascar (Semi-final)
Senegal – Egypt (Semi-final)