Thursday, May 11, 2006

World Cup Spotlight: Togo

Little Togo, a thin slice of a country sandwiched between Ghana and Benin. Until you qualified, I think a lot of people didn't know you existed. I did, because I am a geography geek; I pore over maps and atlases and guidebooks to obscure places. In fact, you are an essential component in the West Africa itinerary I've been tinkering with for years without ever having the opportunity to fulfill its promises. Alas, one of these days I'll make it there, and perhaps take in a football match while I'm at it.

Arsenal defender Emmanuel Adebayor may be the national team's best-known player, although quite a few round out such French squads as PSG, Metz, and Brest. Alas, despite their trouncing of my Senegal Lions in qualifying rounds, Togo's performance at the African Nations Cup in Egypt this year was anything but stellar (consistent with their performance there in past years, they never made it out of the first round). And the new coach, German Otto Pfister, will have only been with the squad a matter of months and will not, in fact, have worked with the team until they begin training in a few days' time in Germany. On June 13 they take to the pitch against South Korea. They'll also face France--against whom, I predict, they haven't a chance--and Switzerland in Group G.

Frankly, it doesn't look good for the Sparrow Hawks (Les Eperviers, for those of you practicising your French). And the Nigerian coach who led them through the qualifiers was controversially fired after their disastrous African Nations Cup campaign--according to some, following a dust-up with the purportedly prima donna-ish Adebayor. So is their spot in Germany merely a fluke? Realistically, I don't see them making it out of the group phase, but it's still doubtless an exciting time for the Togolese, and as with all the underdogs, I wish them well. In the meantime, check out the Site Officiel de la Federation Togolaise de Football.

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