Nigeria Beach Soccer Eagles have made it to the FIFA World Cup by beating hosts Egypt 7-6 after extra time to grab a place in the Beach Soccer Africa Cup of Nations 2018 final.
Victory against two-time champions Nigeria on Wednesday would have seen hosts Egypt make it to the final on home sand and guarantee their best ever finish in the Beach Soccer Africa Cup of Nations, and of course, a place at the FIFA World Cup 2019 in Paraguay.
However, Nigeria was not about to go easy on their hosts and Abu Azeez struck his 100th goal for his country after a period of high pressure from the men in green. Then Taiwo ran on to a long pass to arrow a low shot past Mohamed Fawzy in the Egyptian goal.
Trailing by two goals already, the hosts had to come up with something soon and stop the previous edition’s runners-up. And they did exactly that when Moustafa Alydrove a free-kick home to pin Nigeria back to just one goal ahead.
The crowd revitalised, Egypt kept up the attack but importantly defended furiously to make sure that the first period ended with the game within sight, at just 1-2.
As the second period started, the Egyptians were looking the more dangerous of the sides and Paul, the Nigerian goalkeeper, was kept busy, pulling off some impressive stops. But another goal eluded them, until Costa found a sliver of space to pelt a low shot into the corner, giving Paul no chance this time.
Aware of their dominance, Egypt was moving over the sand with confidence, but when Ogbonna sent a cleanly-hit chip into the top corner, Nigeria led once more. Abu then made it 2-4, grabbing his second of the day. But Samir, a minute after missing a penalty, dragged Egypt back once more, by scoring a free kick.
The third period got underway with the hosts just one behind Audu Ejo Adamu’s men. As Abu completed a hat-trick, Samir was there, once more, to volley home after a sublime piece of teamwork, and the difference remained the same.
And then, a penalty and the chance to draw level. Mohamed stepped up, took a deep breath and powered the shot past Paul to equalise – 5-5! With the prospect of a place in the FIFA World Cup ahead of them, Egypt was throwing everything they had at the Nigerians who were suddenly looking vulnerable, lunging into tackles and giving away valuable free kicks.
Abu picked the defender’s pocket to take the lead yet again, but just a minute later Egypt was level when Mohamed scored a beauty of an overhead. Extra time was snatched cruelly from them, when more defensive complacency saw Ogbonna nick the ball, calmly finish and take the game 6-7 for Nigeria.
The heart-broken hosts sank to the sand while the ecstatic Nigerians celebrated wildly. These sides will have to wait until tomorrow to see who they face in the 3rd place play-off and who will join Nigeria in the final, and Paraguay.
Goals: 0-1: Abu, min. 6 (1); 0-2: Taiwo, min. 3 (1); 1-2: Moustafa Aly, min. 2(1); 2-2: Costa, min. 6 (2); 2-3: Ogbonna, min. 4 (2); 2-4: Abu, min. 3 (2);3-4: Samir, min. 1 (2); 3-5: Abu, min. 10 (3); 4-5: Samir, min. 9 (3); 5-5:Mohamed, min. 7 (3); 5-6: Abu, min. 5 (3); 6-6: Mohamed, min. 3 (3); 6-7:Ogbonna, min. 0 (3);