2013 FIFA Beach Soccer WC: Ivorian coach targets 2nd round

Lagos, Nigeria (PANA) - Jean Soro, coach of Cote d'Ivoire's team to the 2013 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup starting in Tahiti Wednesday (18Sept), says his team will have achieved a lot if it qualified for the second round from Group D.

The Ivorians are in the same group as Japan, which has been omnipresent at beach soccer finals, Paraguay, which finished runner-up in the CONMEBOL qualifying tournament, and defending champion Russia.

Soro, who played for major Ivorian clubs Stella, ASEC and Africa Sports, as well as for the national team - Elephants - in the run-up to the 1992 Africa Nations Cup before being dropped from the final squad, told the FIFA media outlet that the beach soccer team's goal in Tahiti would be to do better than in Dubai in 2009, which was its only other appearance in the finals.

"We are hoping we can reach the second round, which we could not do four years ago. If we make it to the second round, any positive result thereafter will be a bonus," he declared.

The last time Soro appeared on a global footballing stage was in 1983, when he was a member of the Ivorian squad at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Mexico.

He played in all three matches for the West African country - drawing with Uruguay, but losing to USA and Poland and failing to get beyond the group stage.

Fast forward 30 years and the 49-year-old has an opportunity to put that disappointment behind him when he leads a Côte d'Ivoire team that will be making its second appearance at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup.

However, the African team will face some stiff opposition in Tahiti during the 18-28 Sept. tournament after being drawn into a tough Group D.

Soro admitted that the team is wary of the Russian side in the opening stage.

"I think we are in a group in which we have a chance. We have every chance against Paraguay. In our group, the only team we are nervous about is Russia. The Russians have a very good side and we are working on how to counter them. This is a group that will not be easy, but making it to second round is possible for us," he said.

The former Ivorian international took his team to Tahiti by finishing runner-up at the African qualifiers in Morocco earlier this year. After winning all three group matches, Soro's team defeated host Morocco in the semi-finals to book its ticket to Tahiti.

Although Senegal was too strong in the final - winning 4-1 - the Ivorians achieved their goal of being one of the two teams to represent the continent.

"We are certainly not going to Tahiti to make up the numbers. We are going there to disturb a certain hierarchy," Soro revealed.

As a rising side on the continent and looking to prove it belongs on the highest stage, Soro insists his team will be highly motivated, saying: "Along with Senegal, we are the only two representatives of Africa at the World Cup, so we will do our best to represent our continent honourably."

The side will have plenty of experience, with captain and goalkeeper Boris Enam, forward Ludovic Ehounou and wingers Didier Kabletchi and Frederic Aka among the players who are expected to make their second appearance at the showpiece event.

Ehounou scored eight of the 15 goals Côte d'Ivoire scored in 2009 in Dubai, including an astonishing five in the side's 7-6 victory against El Salvador.
-0- PANA VAO/SEG 18Sept2013

18 september 2013 08:18:55

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