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A Homecoming Heartbreaker

   

Well, 92 minutes into the game on Sunday against Morocco, Togo was on their way to the top of Group A. Unfortunately though, the game was to have a total of 93 minutes. All the hope and good fortune that was experienced in 92 minutes was completely undone by a great piece of skill by a Moroccan substitute. A draw that was snatched from the hands of victory, and possibly, the execution of the dream of two consecutive World Cup appearances.

It was all hope, excitement and partying at the beginning of the game with this being the first game at Kegue Stadium in Lome for quite some time due to the FIFA ban stemming from the violence that took place after a match with Mali in 2007. The fans were out in force to cheer on their national hero’s and were promptly rewarded in the 4th minute. Emmanuel Adebayor created the chance with some good work down the right hand side and his cross found Mohamed Kader (Togo’s only goal-scorer in Germany ‘06) who whiffed on an acrobatic attempt on net but the ball found it’s way to Aston Villa man Moustapha Salifou all alone on the left who easily slotted the ball in the net. Pandemonium in Lome. I couldn’t even believe what I just saw. Togo was off to an early lead in front of 25,000 jubilant supporters.

Just like they did against Cameroon back in March, after scoring the early goal Togo decided to throw almost all their players into their half to sit back and defend. Including Emmanuel Adebayor who was often found running around in his own end helping defend, something that I rarely saw him do in his days with Arsenal. The game then became a rough and tumble affair with the scrappy les Eperviers playing a physical, aggressive style and Morocco struggling to get into any kind of rhythm. Togo did have it’s chances to increase their lead though with Adebayor, Salifou, Kader and occasionally Thomas Dossevi forming a dangerous group up front. They pushed forward at times when they caught Morocco napping in the back but weren’t able to capitalize.

Keeping with the theme of a rough affair, starting keeper Dodo Obilale took a rough tumble while making a save and was forced to be carted off the field and replaced. In came Kossi Agassa, the same man who led Togo to the World Cup in Germany. I was confident knowing we had a keeper like Agassa as the replacement. I always felt he was a competent goalie and could still be the number one. Interesting trivia on the side- which keeper led all keepers in saves in the group stage in Germany ‘06? That’s right, none other than Kossi Agassa. Crazy eh? Not sure if that speaks more to his skill or Togo’s sub-par defending, but still interesting nonetheless.

After entering the game in the 58th minute, Agassa was not really forced to make any difficult saves and things seemed to be progressing comfortably towards a crucial 1-0 home victory, all but eliminating Morocco from contention for the one spot to South Africa. Then the 93rd minute happened. Just when the Togo defenders thought they had done enough to preserve the 3 points they were undone with a lovely bit of football from Moroccan substitute Adel Taraabt. Shock and horror. Just like I couldn’t believe what I was seeing when Salifou scored in the 4th minute, I now could not believe what I was seeing as Morocco had scored the equalizer on what was most likely to be the final rush of the game.

Togo is not of course eliminated with that draw but their hopes did take a serious blow. Now the best we can hope for is Gabon and Cameroon to play to a draw on Wednesday which would leave Togo tied for second place with Cameroon, 2 points behind Gabon with 2 matches to play. Not a great chance at qualification but a chance all the same. Les Eperviers will travel to Cameroon in October and then host Gabon in November. Realistically, nothing short of 2 victories will get Togo to South Africa.

More thoughts and a clearer picture will be coming after Wednesday’s Cameroon-Gabon encounter. Here for your viewing pleasure is the goal that broke Togolese hearts in Lome:


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Comments
By Rami | September 9th, 2009 at 8:05 am
Top

Even though I’m supposed to be rooting for Morocco since they’re part of the Maghreb and all, I feel bad for Togo. That’s a killer goal at a killer time. Sucks for the home fans to experience something so rough after waiting so long to watch their boys play in Lome. Lovely bit of skill but damn, I don’t know what I’d do with myself if Togo were my team.

Posted from United States United States

By maged | September 11th, 2009 at 10:51 am
Top

wow….

I wanted to see Adebayer in the World Cup. But well, I guess this group is the hardest group ever for African cup Qualifications:)

Good luck for every team.

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