Monday, June 19, 2006

TOGO TOGO TOGO (part two)

Switzerland 2-0 Togo

Ah well, we could dream, couldn't we? A team that contrived to have it's coach resign three days before it's first match, only for him to be reinstated the night before. If that wasn't enough, they then threatened to not play against the Swiss on account of the fact that they still hadn't been paid their bonus for actually qualifying for the finals in the first place. Still, though, they had put up an almighty fight against the South Koreans in their previous match, and were far from outplayed by the Swiss.

As has been pointed out elsewhere, there were no major objections when India pulled out of the 1950 World Cup because they weren't allowed to play in bare feet. Nowadays, though, every match is live, so FIFA decided to apparently take a two-pronged approach towards dealing with the issue. On the one hand, they offered the Togolese players a payment to turn up and play, but on the other... lengthy bans were mentioned if they didn't show. Am I the only person to think that, had this been, say, Brazil who were having a similar dispute, that there would be no mention of world-wide bans? It's open to speculation, of course, but it there's very little doubt in my mind that there wouldn't be. For the record, I think they were right to protest so strongly. We see plenty of situations these days in which the adminstrators of the game in various countries make sure they they're looked after without even considering the interests of the people that actually got them there. Fair play to them, I reckon.

In spite of this chaotic build-up, they put up a fight, and in their goalkeeper Kossi Agassa we have one of the discoveries in the tournament. Agile, big and especially good on crosses, he can comfortably expect an offer or two once he gets back. Of course, the vast majority of their players come from various European equivalents of the Nationwide Conference, so there may be more offers in the pipeline. They certainly deserve them, because they pushed Switzerland all the way today - in spite of going a goal down early on. They even have a clear penalty claim denied when Adebayor is felled like a giant redwood by Hegen. There's no justice when you're from the third world.

In the second half, the Togolese began to tire, and the Swiss upped their game according, but excellent defending prevented them from doing any further damage until two minutes from time, when Barnetta added a second. The result throws the group wide open, and puts France in a little bit of difficulty. They now need to beat Togo by two clear goals to get through, and on this evidence it's by no means a done deal. The Swiss have lived up to my earlier prediction, certainly - able, but not gifted enough to trouble the later stages of the tournament. For Togo, should they turn up for it, an opportunity to stick one over on the French and get some pride back into the bargain. Who amongst them won't wish them well in that?


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