The road to Bahamas
With the home crowd behind them, Nigeria embarked on their 2016 CAF Beach Soccer Africa Cup of Nations campaign on 13 December last year with high hopes of capturing the trophy and drawing level with Senegal as the competition’s most decorated team. Despite being beaten 3-1 on penalties by Côte d’Ivoire (4-4 aet) in the group stage, they advanced to the semi-finals courtesy of narrow wins over Egypt (3-2) and Ghana (4-3). They then swept past Morocco 6-1 in the last four to clinch a berth at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Bahamas 2017. However, there was to be no fairy-tale ending for the hosts, who were powerless to prevent Senegal securing a fourth crown with an 8-4 victory in the final on 18 December, a result that cemented the Lions of Teranga’s position as Africa’s champions on the sand.
Strengths and style
Nigeria have ended a six-year spell in the Beach Soccer World Cup wilderness in large part thanks to the brilliance of Emeka Ogbonna, who collected the Most Valuable Player award at the qualifying event. He was undoubtedly the most influential figure behind his side’s successful showing at the tournament, popping up with no fewer than six goals and tipping the balance in the Super Sand Eagles’ favour at crunch moments. Honourable mentions also go to forward Isiaka Olawale and defender Victor Tale, who made key contributions.
FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup record
Nigeria have taken part in four editions of the Beach Soccer World Cup, all from 2006 to 2011, a period when they only missed out on Marseille 2008. Their best performances came at Rio de Janeiro 2007 and Ravenna/Italy 2011, when they progressed from the group stage before succumbing to Uruguay and Brazil respectively in the quarter-finals. The Nigerians failed to qualify for either Tahiti 2013 or Portugal 2015.