Experience won the day in Saturday’s semi-finals in the African qualifying tournament for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Ravenna/Italy 2011. Continental big guns Nigeria and Senegal overcame the respective challenges of Madagascar and Egypt to check into Sunday’s final in Casablanca and claim Africa’s two slots at September’s world finals.
The Nigerians, the defending African champions, were the first to win through, though they were given a much sterner examination by outsiders Madagascar than they might have expected. The competition debutants pushed their esteemed rivals all the way, belying their underdog status with a spirited display before eventually going down 7-6, Isiaka Olawale scoring the decisive goal late on to secure Nigeria a place in the world finals for the fourth time.
In the second semi-final, Senegal had only slightly less difficulty in disposing of Egypt 4-2. Both sides adopted a cautious approach in a cagey first period that ended goalless. Showing their claws in the second and third periods, the 'Lions of Teranga' gradually took control to qualify for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup for the third time in their history.
The minor placings were decided earlier in the day, with Côte d'Ivoire, runners-up to Nigeria in 2009, recording their first win of the competition to take seventh place. After finishing bottom of their group, the Elephants beat Libya 6-4 to sign off in style.