Senegal are through to the quarter-finals at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup for only the second time in their history after beating Iran 5-3 at Ravenna’s Stadio del Mare.
The Iranians, who were already consigned to elimination before today’s match, offered stern resistance before eventually being overwhelmed a Senegal side whose final position in Group A will depend on the later fixture between Switzerland and hosts Italy.
With the stakes so high, the African hopefuls might have been forgiven some early nerves, but as it was they shot in front with the second-fastest goal of the tournament. Just six seconds were on the clock, in fact, when Ndiaga Mbaye fired home a long-distance free-kick to open the scoring, and the same player was on target to double his team’s advantage three minutes later, volleying powerfully into the net after lobbing his Iranian marker.
Senegal extended their lead further with the end of the first period approaching, with Babacar Fall smashing home following a clever pass from Ibrahima Bakhoum. Even at this early stage, Iran looked down and out, but they rallied in the second period, pulling a goal back on 15 minutes through Mehdi Hassani’s free-kick into the top right-hand corner.
Three minutes later, the deficit was reduced yet further, this time thanks to a stylish overhead kick from No10 Moslem Mesigar. However, any thoughts that Senegal were about to crumble under the pressure evaporated on 23 minutes, albeit in fortuitous circumstances, with Cheikh Ba’s attempted block rebounding to the other end of the pitch and beyond the hapless Iranian keeper.
There was still plenty of pressure for the Senegalese to withstand, and nerves were once again set jangling when Farid Boulokbashi delicately lobbed home just after the hour-mark. However, all doubt was removed with 35 minutes played when Babacar Fall secured Senegal’s place in the last eight with a precise free-kick that flashed into the bottom corner.