Futsal AFCON Qualifiers: Stunning Comebacks and Historic Achievements

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From Incredible Turnarounds to Unprecedented Feats: A Journey Through the Futsal AFCON Qualifiers


Ghana and Namibia shocked their opponents with stunning comebacks in their preliminary round fixtures to secure berths at the Futsal Africa Cup of Nations final tournament, joined by Libya and Zambia in their remarkable turnaround victories. The quartet’s triumphs ensure an exciting lineup for the continental finals in Rabat, Morocco, set to unfold in April, offering a gateway to the FIFA Futsal World Cup Uzbekistan 2024.

(Main picture: Ghana National futsal team – source of the image: Ghana Football Association)

In an extraordinary display of resilience, Ghana orchestrated a historic comeback against Côte d’Ivoire. Despite a disheartening 4-0 defeat in the first leg at home, Ghana’s Black Stars, led by Philip Boakye, orchestrated a sensational reversal in Abidjan, triumphing 6-2 to clinch victory on away goals. The win marked Ghana’s return to the continental finals after a 28-year hiatus, igniting euphoria among players and fans alike.

Reflecting on Ghana’s remarkable journey, coach Philip Boakye expressed his ambition in an article in the Ghana Football Association website to guide the team to the FIFA Futsal World Cup in Azerbaijan, highlighting meticulous preparations and unwavering belief as catalysts for success. Boakye emphasised the team’s long-term vision, aiming to make a significant impact at the AFCON and beyond, with aspirations of securing corporate support to bolster futsal’s development in Ghana.

Ghana Football Association president, Kurt Okraku, lauded the team’s historic achievement, pledging unwavering support for their AFCON campaign and underscoring the association’s commitment to nurturing futsal talent in the country.

Namibia, in their inaugural international outing, faced a daunting 5-2 deficit against Tanzania. However, displaying unwavering determination, the team rallied in Dar es Salaam, securing a remarkable 6-3 victory to advance on away goals, defying the odds in spectacular fashion. Notably, the team was under the guidance of Ryan Jago, who etched his name in history as the first British/English Futsal coach to helm an African nation in the competition. Moreover, he became the pioneer coach to lead Namibia’s inaugural national futsal team, marking a significant milestone in the country’s sporting journey. Futsal Focus spoke with Ryan after their victory,

“I’m overwhelmed by the entire experience. Overcoming the three-goal deficit to qualify felt like an incredible achievement. In the first game, we found ourselves giving away too many unnecessary fouls, which led to conceding three penalties and some costly goals due to nerves. Our preparations for the second leg were centered around strategic adjustments. We emphasised having a player drop centrally to always provide a passing option, creating numerous overload situations. Moreover, we worked extensively on finishing, ensuring a clear game plan was in place. It was evident from the sidelines that the boys executed these tactics brilliantly.

Tanzania employed various psychological tactics, such as deliberately delaying our transportation by 30 minutes, canceling one of our training sessions and holding it themselves, and even intruding on our training sessions to observe. On match day, they placed us in a changing room that had recently been painted and lacked adequate ventilation, making it difficult to breathe. Despite these challenges, the treatment we faced only fueled our determination to achieve the desired result.

Nevertheless, the atmosphere, particularly during the home game, was electric. Despite the modest attendance of just over 1,000 fans, the roar of the crowd when we scored made it feel like there were 20,000 in attendance. Personally, I was unexpectedly overcome with emotion during the first leg when the national anthem played, despite not being Namibian.

I found the predictability of their play in the second half of the first leg to be rather apparent, and I knew we were capable of more. Despite the three-goal deficit, I remained confident that we could turn the tide. However, my concern lay in whether the boys would maintain composure and mental readiness. In the days leading up to the second leg, their body language seemed somewhat negative, lacking the self-belief that us coaches had in them. Now, witnessing their triumph, they’ve proven to themselves the extent of their abilities.

The camaraderie within the squad is incredible, and we’re all eagerly anticipating the AFCON in Morocco. We’re equally excited about the forthcoming preparations, eager to learn new tactics and continue developing as a cohesive unit.

Considering that the team was introduced to tactical strategies for the first time upon my arrival, with just five days before our inaugural match, the progress has been astonishing. Despite Tanzania having a two-year head start, the boys embraced the tactics with remarkable speed, implementing them in matches far sooner than I anticipated. This fills me with hope for the AFCON, believing that with this remarkable team, anything is achievable.

The gratitude expressed by the lads before my departure was incredibly touching. Each one took a moment to share what they had learned from me and to express their appreciation for my belief in them. The increased publicity and excitement surrounding the team have undoubtedly contributed to the growth of Futsal in Namibia, further fueling our motivation to achieve our objectives.

While we acknowledge the challenges ahead and guard against overconfidence, our aim remains clear: to secure a top-three finish and qualify for the World Cup. Despite only having two weeks of tactical training, setting such lofty aspirations may seem ambitious. Yet, considering our journey to qualification, we must set high expectations for ourselves and continue striving towards success.”

Libya stunned Algeria with a late, dramatic goal, overturning a precarious situation to secure their place in Morocco. Zambia completed the quartet of comeback victories, overcoming Mozambique with a 2-0 win in Lusaka, sealing their spot in the continental showcase. Andrea Cristoforetti, Zambia’s head coach, etched his name in history as the first Italian coach for their national team. Similar to Ryan’s achievement, Andrea became the first from his nation to lead a team into the Futsal Africa Cup of Nations.

We caught up with Andrea to hear his thoughts after guiding his team to the next stage of the competition,

“It’s been an incredible journey for us. We anticipated a challenging match against Mozambique, knowing they are accustomed to international competition—a facet of the game we’ve lacked due to our limited international exposure. For some of our players, it marked their first appearance for the national team, underscoring the significance of the occasion. Our initial encounter in Mozambique fell short of our capabilities; amidst the intense atmosphere and a formidable opponent, conceding three goals was a setback. However, upon returning to Zambia, we regrouped, meticulously analyzed our performance, and identified areas for improvement. In the subsequent home leg, we showcased our true playing style, akin to our performances in competitions in Croatia and Italy. The match was tense, with the scoreline at 1-0 —a precarious situation where one goal against us if the match ended 1-1,  would have led to elimination. Nonetheless, the unwavering support of our home crowd fueled our determination, culminating in a satisfying victory.

Futsal AFCON Qualifiers: Stunning Comebacks and Historic Achievements

Source of the image: Afrique Futsal Facebook page

It’s important to highlight the significance of this competition in Africa, as it serves as our sole international platform every four years, so the occasion was akin to a World Cup qualification for us. Securing a spot in the Futsal Africa Cup of Nations is a tremendous opportunity. Looking ahead, we acknowledge the formidable competition we’ll face. Morocco, in particular, stands out with their exceptional level of play, which rivals that of powerhouses like Brazil and Argentina. Additionally, teams like Angola, Egypt, and Libya boast experienced coaches, adding to the challenge.

As we eagerly await the draw, our team is ready to compete at the highest level and showcase our abilities on the continental stage.”

As the countdown to the Futsal AFCON in Rabat commences, anticipation mounts for a thrilling showcase of  African futsal prowess, with Ghana, Zambia, and Namibia’s sensational comebacks setting the stage for an exhilarating tournament.

The author of the article

Stephen McGettigan was born in the Republic of Ireland but grew up in Belfast. He is the founder of Futsal Focus, a Football Industries MBA graduate from the University of Liverpool Management School, and he has worked in the Football and Futsal industries for 15 years.

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