By Chidera Akalonu
Super Sand Eagles captain, Isiaka Olawale is targeting a quarter-final place at the forthcoming 2017 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup scheduled to hold from 27 April to 7 May 2017 in Bahamas.
Bahamas 2017 will be the fourth time that Olawale competes in the beach soccer tournament having been in the Nigerian team at the 2007 finals in Brazil, the 2009 edition in the United Arab Emirates and in 2011 in Italy .
In an interview with FIFA.com, Olawale , revealed how he lured older players to the squad to help clinch the ticket for the World Cup in Bahamas.
“Qualifying for the finals was not easy,” Olawale began.
“We have not made it for the last two tournaments and being beaten in the semi-finals by Senegal in the Seychelles and missing out on qualifying for the finals in Portugal was very painful. In 2013, we were also beaten by Senegal
“ To qualify this time around, we recalled some of the older players. As captain of the team, I spoke to the players and told them this is a great opportunity. The African championships were in our country, so we had a lot of advantages.”
As hosts, the Super Sand Eagles were seeded into Group A, where they faced Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt and Ghana. “This was not an easy group,” Olawale said. “Côte d’Ivoire and Egypt are regularly in the semi-finals and Ghana is not a bad team either. But we wanted to avoid facing Senegal again, so we thought that we had to win our group.”
Nigeria will be playing in Group B at the global event, which takes place at the end of April and beginning of May in the Bahamas. They will be challenging Iran, Italy and Mexico for a place in the knockout stages.