•Beat Cote d’Ivoire 7-4 to retain crown
•Qualify for World Cup

Eagles jubilating over victory
Eagles jubilating over victory

A combination of   clinical finishing and solid defence allowed Nigeria to beat Ivory Coast 7-4 in a thrilling final of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup 2009 Qualifier Durban on Sunday.

The win, which crowns Nigeria as the African champion for the second time after their 2007 title, came on the back of a superb defensive performance, most notably by Ogbonnaya Okemirri, who was rock solid in containing the Ivorian strikers.

Unlike the earlier play-off for third and fourth, which saw Senegal beat Egypt 6-4 in a relatively static encounter, Nigeria and Ivory Coast continued from where they left off in their two thrilling semi-finals on Saturday.

The match was played at a hectic pace and never let up with both teams going all-out to take control as play swung from end to end. With shots raining in on both keepers, either team could have scored numerous times before Ivory Coast got the first breakthrough — but the opening goal came seconds after a missed chance at the other end.

Didier Kabletchi netted the first for Ivory Coast from a quick break after Nigerian Isiaki Olawale had mis-kicked with a wide open goal in front of him at the other end of the park. From then on Nigeria took command with the front running duo of Olawale and Baba Yahaya combining brilliantly to bamboozle the stressed Ivorian defence.

In the first period the combination shared the goals with Olawale getting the first and third, both set up by Yahaya, while his partner up front got the second to leave Nigeria in control with a 3-1 lead at the first break.

The second stanza was almost identical to the first, except Ivory Coast were only  able to get on the score sheet again with 40 seconds of the period left when Thomas Ehounou scrambled the ball into the net. Before his strike, it was once again Olawale and Yahaya, this time with Victor Tale when he was on the pitch, who were giving the Ivorian defence a tough time.

So it was appropriate that the three of them shared the three goals Nigeria added in the second period to leave the score at 6-2 going into the final 12 minutes of non-stop action.

The play swung back and forth, but as the clock ran down Ivory Coast’s hopes ebbed away and although they managed to pull back to three with five minutes to go, via Salomon Ouraga’s score, their hope was short-lived.

Just over a minute later Olawale netted his fourth for the day, and 14th for the tournament, to extend the lead to four goals again, and with just four minutes left it was going to take a miracle to prevent Nigeria from claiming the title.
Ivorean Ouraga netted a penalty but that was just a false glimmer of hope and left the final score as 7-4.

After the match there was some consolation for Ivory Coast as goalkeeper Kevin Enam was named as the Goalkeeper of the Tournament, while Olawale was the Player and Top Goalscorer.


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