BY KUNLE SOLAJA
The Nigerian beach soccer outfit, dubbed Sand Eagles, begin the quest for honours as the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup kicks off at the National Beach Soccer Arena in Nassau, Bahamas.
The Nigerian side making a fifth appearance in ninth episode of the youngest of FIFA competitions will hope to get beyond the quarter finals stage which had been the best achievements attained in 2007 and 2011.
Ranked 13th among the 34 countries that ever took part since inception, Nigeria’s other appearances in which the team was knocked out in group stages were those of 2006 and 2009.
This time around Nigeria, competing in Group B, begins with a duel with Italy at 6.30pm local time, but 11.30pm Nigerian time.
Nigeria had met Italy once in the competition. That was at Copacabana Beach Soccer Arena, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on April 11, 2006. Nigeria won 4-3 and the Sand Eagles are set for a repeat performance in the quest to assail previous mark.
In the very opening match of the competition, Iran will take on Mexico. While defending champions, Portugal begin their title defence on Friday against debutants Panama.
Like in every other tournament, there are record holders. Brazil goalkeeper Mao holds the record for the number of matches played at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, having made 40 appearances for A Seleção at seven world finals.
Ecuador vs Senegal
Bahamas vs Switzerland
Iran vs Mexico
Nigeria vs Italy