West African dominance of the CAF Beach Soccer Championship came to an end in the Seychelles on Sunday as Madagascar beat defending champions Senegal in the final played in the newly-built stadium in Roche Caiman. There was some consolation though for the west Africans as they will join the islanders at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup in Portugal later this year.
There was disappointment, however, for Côte d'Ivoire, who represented the continent at the last World Cup in Tahiti. They were beaten on penalties by Madagascar in the semi-finals, with Nigeria the other semi-finalist to lose out on a place in Portugal. FIFA.comreviews the action.
Madagascar's first-ever continental title was obviously an achievement for former French professional goalkeeper Claude Barrabe, who was installed as coach little more than a month before the event. The islanders had prepared for the competition by participating in the COSAFA Beach Soccer Championship, which were also played in Roche Caiman. They won the tournament, beating Malawi in the final. In the African Championships, Madagascar were simply too strong for their opposition. Drawn into Group B with the defending champions Senegal, Ghana and Morocco, Barrabe's team won all three group matches.
Tokiniaina Francegal, nicknamed Toky, was the hero for his side in the first match as they came back from two goals down to trounce Ghana 9-4. The 22-year-old midfielder, who won the player of the tournament award at the end of the competition, then scored the 3-2 extra-time winner against Senegal. The Madagascans made sure of a place in the semi-finals with a 8-5 victory against Morocco, with Toky again scoring twice. In the round of the last four the Barea needed a 3-2 penalty shoot-out victory against Côte d'Ivoire after the game ended 4-4. In the final, it was Madagascar's goalkeeper Jhorialy Rafalimanana's chance to star as he saved two penalties to see his side run out 2-1 winners in the shoot-out. Flavien Razafimahatratra had given the islanders an early lead, but Ngalla Sylla levelled matters, pushing the game into extra time and then - with neither side adding to their score – into a shoot-out.
Barrabe complimented his players after the victory. “I am glad to have such talented, humble and hard working players. Winning the COSAFA Cup boosted our confidence. After our first victory in the tournament, I thought we could at least reach the semi-finals. The final was a very tight game. I am glad to bring this success to the people in Madagascar, who face very difficult living conditions."
Beaten finalists Senegal scraped into the semi-finals with just three points in their group from their 7-3 opening game victory against Morocco. They lost their second game against Madagascar before being stunned by Ghana's Black Sharks 5-3 in their final group game. But in the match they were most desperate to win, against Nigeria in the semi-finals, they held their own as they twice came from behind to win 4-3 in extra time, with Ibra Thioune scoring the two final goals for the Lions of Teranga. For Senegal coach Ibrahima Ndiaye, the victory against Nigeria meant he had achieved his first objective, which was helping Senegal to their fifth appearance on the global stage.
Also looking for a fifth World Cup participation were Nigeria's Super Sand Eagles, who, alongside Senegal, are the only African team to have escaped the group stages at a World Cup. The west Africans had a comfortable ride into the semi-finals, topping Group A with a 10-1 victory against the hosts, a 4-1 against Egypt and a 7-6 extra-time win against Côte d'Ivoire. Audu Adamu's team then came unstuck in the semi-finals against Senegal. A 9-1 victory against Côte d'Ivoire in the play-off match did little to put aside the disappointment of losing out on a place in Portugal. Two-time World Cup finalists Côte d'Ivoire qualified for the semi-finals courtesy of a penalty shoot-out victory against Egypt after a 3-3 draw in their first match. They then beat the hosts 2-1 in their next game, before losing their final group match against Nigeria. It was the first of three successive defeats as the west Africans were beaten by Madagascar in the semis and then the Nigerians again in the play-off.
Rookies Seychelles, found their first participation on the continental stage a difficult undertaking, as they lost all three Group A matches, conceding 17 goals. Their defeats continued as they were beaten by Morocco and Ghana in the play-off matches to finish last in the competition. Egypt, meanwhile, won their first knock-out game 6-5 against Ghana, but then lost the play-off for fifth place against North African rivals Morocco 3-1. The Moroccans, who made it to the semi-final last time when they hosted the competition, finished third in Group B after a 5-3 victory against Ghana. In the knock-outs, they beat the hosts 5-1 to qualify for the play-off for fifth place. The Black Sharks finished seventh with a 12-1 win against Seychelles in their play-off match.
1 Madagascar *
2 Senegal *
4 Côte d'Ivoire
*Qualified for Portugal 2015
Most Valuable Player
Tokiniaina 'Toky' Francegal (Madagascar)
Best Goalkeeper Award
Jhorialy Rafalimanana (Madagascar)
Alexander Adjei (Ghana) - 15 goals