World Cup 2006 Preview – Togo

Outright Odds: 500/1
Group G Winners: 16/1

First-time World Cup qualification for the tiny west African nation was such a great achievement the country’s president declared a national holiday to celebrate.

Togo had never come close to qualifying before until they embarked on the history making campaign which saw them secure a place in Germany ahead of 2002 World Cup quarter finalists Senegal and African Cup of Nations finalists Mali.

After a nervous start which saw them lose their opening match in a preliminary qualification tie against minnows Equatorial Guinea 1-0, they won the return leg 2-0 and after losing their opening group match away to Zambia, remained unbeaten to top the group.

Their place in Germany was decided on the final day of qualifying and a draw at Congo would be enough. They fell behind twice but two second half goals from Sochaux striker Kader Toure earned Les Eperviers (The Sparrow Hawks) a 3-2 win.

Qualification saw a party to end all parties in the capital of Lome. Revellers defied a power cut and pouring rain to celebrate what was seen before the qualification matches as an impossible task.

Like South Korea, they have seen a change in management before the finals this summer. Former captain and assistant coach of Nigerian Stephen Keshi took over following the Zambia defeat and lead Togo to Germany but in turn left following a poor showing at the Cup of Nations. He has been replaced by 68-year-old German Otto Pfister who has coached in Switzerland, Asia and Africa but never in his homeland.

Togo are something of an unknown quantity and could spring a surprise like Senegal did four years ago. They have plenty of pace up front and their star player is striker Emmanuel Adebayor, who joined Arsenal from Monaco. He was the continent’s top goalscorer and weighed in with 11 goals. Togo also have a highly rated goalkeeper in Kossi Agassa who is nicknamed “magic hands”.

With a pedigree for being whipping boys of African football, Togo are unsurprisingly known to be slow starters in matches. While they managed to overcome this against more modest opposition, they may not find their opponents in Germany so forgiving.

Recommended Bet
Somebody could spring a major surprise in this tournament so why not Togo who could emulate the success enjoyed by Senegal in 2002? Their first match pits them against arguably their weakest opponents in South Korea which could act as a springboard for the games against France and Switzerland. It’s a longshot, but…

Togo to qualify from Group G @ 3/1

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