The fifth edition of the Beach Soccer Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) kicks off today in the coastal town of Vilankulos in Mozambique, with seven teams vying for continental glory.
The number of competing teams went down from the initial eight after the withdrawal of Nigeria. The withdrawal of the West African giants saw Confederation of African Football (Caf) revising the fixture for the competition.
Hosts Mozambique, Malawi and Morocco make up Group A while Group B has Senegal, Uganda, Madagascar and Egypt. The seven teams go into the continental showpiece with contrasting backgrounds as analysed by Caf’s website:
Nickname: Os Mambas
Records: 2021 Afcon runners-up
2022: Qualified as hosts
Mozambique finished as runners-up in Senegal for their first appearance in the finals, and they will be hoping to improve on this at home.
Mozambique topped their pool with a full haul of three wins in 2021, and then beat Uganda 6-3 in the semifinals. They lost 4-1 to Senegal in the final, but still did enough to book their place at the 2021 Fifa Beach Soccer World Cup, where they exited at the first stage.
Playing at home in front of their crowd; will that be an advantage for the team that impressed with their techniques and their quality players like Nelson Manuel?
Nickname: The Sand Cranes
Records: Semi-finalists in 2021
2022 qualifiers: Edged out Comoros with wins of 5-2 (first leg) and 4-3 (second leg), aggregate 9-5.
Currently ranked 5th in Africa and 36 in the World as per Beach Soccer Worldwide, Uganda began to put more focus on beach soccer in 2019 and so their improvement in the last three years – not helped by Covid–has been rapid.
After qualifying for their first Beach Soccer Africa Nations Cup in Senegal last year, they managed to qualify for the final four. As they repeated the feat to qualify for the 2022 finals in Mozambique, Sand cranes will be eager to win a medal.
Records: Winners of the Beach Soccer Afcon in 2015, 5th in 2016 and 2018
Qualifiers 2022: Madagascar beat Seychelles 5-2 (first leg) and 6-2 (second leg), making an aggregate of 11-4.
In 2015, Madagascar performed the feat of beating Senegal during the Beach Soccer Afcon held at the Roche Caiman Sports Complex, Seychelles in the penalty lottery (2-1), after 1-1 draw in the regulation period.
To qualify for the Vilankulo event, Madagascar beat Seychelles, hosts of 2015 Beach Soccer Afcon.
Nickname: The Teranga Lions
Records: Winners of three successive Beach Soccer Afcons (2016, 2018 and 2021). They hosted and won the last Beach Soccer Afcon at Saly Portudal seaside resort.
2022 Qualifiers: beat Cameroon with double wins of 9-1 and 7-3, and 16-4.
After the spectacular fall in 2015, the Lions of Teranga proved that it was a mere accident on the way. The Senegalese claimed the title the following year (2016) having won their first official Beach Soccer Afcon title at the expense of Nigeria, after winning 8-4.
For the last title won in 2021 at home, they beat debutants Mozambique 4-1 and qualified at the same time for the World Cup in Russia.
Player Raoul Mendy was outstanding in the last tournament and made quite an impression at the World Cup in Russia.
Nickname: The Flames
Records: This will be their first appearance in Beach Soccer Afcon finals.
2022 qualifiers: The Malawians won 3-2 at home and lost 6-5 away to Tanzania
It will be the first time in their history that Malawi compete in the Beach Soccer Afcon. To qualify for the Vilankulo event, the Malawians won 3-2 at home and lost 6-5 away to Tanzania. However, their expectations are high for their first appearance in the continental tournament. Can they make a surprise?
Malawi was the fourth team to arrive after Morocco, Senegal and Madagascar settled on the stage where the best barefoot football artists will be gathered.
Malawi are in Group A of the continental tournament alongside hosts Mozambique and Morocco. Note that this group was reduced to three teams due to the withdrawal of Nigeria.
In their opening game, Malawi will take on Mozambique before meeting up with Morocco, bronze medalists of the last Afcon. The champions and runners-up of this year’s continental competition will automatically qualify for the 2023 Fifa Beach Soccer World Cup.
Malawi qualified for the Afcon finals on the away goals rule after an 8-8 aggregate stalemate against Tanzania.
This followed Malawi’s 3-2 win at Sunbird Livingstonia in Salima District followed by a 6-5 defeat in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
Nickname: The Atlas Lions
Records: Finished third in Senegal, qualified for their 5th successive Beach Soccer Afcon
2022 qualifiers: Won
Morocco has invested heavily in this sport and will be trying to deliver their first title. They are one of the more seasoned teams in the competition, having made appearances since the tournament’s inception in 2015 and finishing third in 2021. Morocco’s opponents in Group A will be hosts Mozambique and Malawi.
Nickname: The Pharaohs
Records: Bronze medalists in 2016 and 2018
2022 qualifiers: They defeated Ghana to qualify by a single goal
Egypt left Ghana behind by a one-goal difference, 12-11, in the two-legged aggregate. In the first leg, Ghana won 6-5, on goal difference, and in the second leg, it was Egypt who won by two goals difference, 7-5, and secured qualification.
Hosts of the 2018 Beach Soccer Afcon, Pharaohs are regulars at the highest level of the game.