When the 24 best sides in the world gather at the FIFA Futsal World Cup Colombia 2016, the African contingent will feature a veteran Egyptian side but also a new champion in Morocco and debutants in Mozambique, who needed a dramatic penalty shoot-out to overcome a gallant Zambian effort in the play-off for third at the 2016 CAF Africa Futsal Cup of Nations.
In the final, Morocco stunned favourites Egypt 3-2, coming from behind to win. Mostafa Eid Mohamed scored twice for the Pharaohs, only to see Morocco draw level both times and claim a winner from their captain Adil Habil with just two minutes to go. It was Morocco's first African futsal title and the second time they have qualified for the World Cup finals, while it was a second final loss on the trot in the ultimate match for Egypt.
Disappointment for the hosts
The draw pitted the three African qualifiers from the World Cup in Thailand four years ago (Egypt, Morocco and Libya) together in Group B, which left the door open for at least one side from Group A (hosts South Africa, Mozambique, Zambia and Tunisia) to book a first-ever appearance on the global stage. South Africa's hopes suffered a setback in their first match as they were beaten 7-4 by Mozambique. A 3-0 victory against Zambia in their second game meant a win over Tunisia would see them through, but the North Africans had other plans. Although Renaldo Donnelly gave the hosts an ideal start with a converted penalty early on, Tunisia hit back strongly with seven goals in the second half with Bilel Ajmi and Zoubeir Amimi scoring hat-tricks.
For much of the second half, Tunisia looked as if they would be joining Mozambique in the knockout stage, as the southern Africans were leading 4-2 against Zambia in the other group game that was being played at the same time. But two late goals from Boniface Ndhlovu and Adrian Chama saw Zambia come back from the brink of defeat to draw 4-4 and snatch the second semi-final berth.
In Group B, Egypt and Libya played to the first goalless draw in the history of the African competition in their opening match. A victory against Angola in their second game saw three-time champions Egypt well-placed ahead of their final match against Morocco, knowing that a draw would be good enough to advance to the semi-finals.
Morocco, who had already qualified for the knockout stage ahead of the game, could afford a 3-2 defeat against their North African rivals, for whom Mostafa Eid Mohamed scored twice – once into his own net and once into the Moroccan one. The result left the outcome of the other match between Angola and Libya meaningless, as both sides had no chance of advancing. The 4-2 win for the defending champions Libya, saw them finish third in the group but still without a ticket for the World Cup finals.
Both Egypt and Morocco went into their matches in the semi-finals as the favourites and neither side disappointed their fans as they secured victories against Zambia and Mozambique respectively, albeit in very different fashions as Morocco secured a comfortable 4-1 win, with Adil Habil scoring twice, while Egypt struggled against Zambia. Mostafa Eid Mohamed gave the Egyptians a quick three-goal lead with a hat-trick within the space of two minutes, and when Elmoatazzbellah Abdelhalim ‘Mizo’ added a fourth before the break, the Zambians looked dead and buried, even though Boniface Ndhlovu pulled one back on 19 minutes.
Michelo Kaampwe added a second for the southern Africans after the restart, only to see Mohamed Mohktar restore the three-goal lead shortly afterwards. But again the Zambians came back strongly, and Donald Phiri and a second from Kaampwe ensured a hectic finale for the Pharaohs, who had to be at their best to keep the Zambians from scoring an equaliser. The 5-4 victory put Egypt into a third consecutive final.
10 –The number of goals scored by Mozambique's Ricardo Mendes in the five matches his side played in the tournament. The Mambas' captain, who was the tournament's top scorer, missed his penalty in the shoot-out for third place, but his team still qualified for the World Cup finals as only one Zambian scored from the spot compared with two Mozambicans.
What they said
“I set myself a target of qualifying for the World Cup, and I had promised to resign if we failed ... Victory in the final would be the icing on the cake,” Morocco coach Hicham Dguig said before the final.
1- Morocco *
2- Egypt *
3- Mozambique *
7- South Africa
* qualified for Colombia 2016