Togo host the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon this weekend in Group A of CAF 2010 World Cup Qualifying.
Kick-off: Saturday, March 28th, 2009 at 16:00 GMT.
Ohene Djan Sports Stadium, Accra
Ohene Djan Sports Stadium, Accra
Uncertain Times For Togo
The Togolese have been put in the awkward position of having to “host” their main Group A rival, Cameroon, on a neutral ground in Ghana due to a suspension stemming from regrettable incidents that followed their 2008 African Cup of Nations qualifier versus Mali at their home stadium in Lome.
The Malians emerged 2-0 victors in a match that Togo needed to win in order to secure passage to the continental tournament. Their loss was then compounded by reprehensible behaviour from some Togo supporters who attacked the visitors and resulted in a four-match home ban on the “Sparrowhawks.” Togo face the prospect of having to play two more home games in neighboring Ghana which is close but far from an ideal situation.
To make matters worse, the country’s Football Federation has a history of making things difficult for players and coaches of the West African country. While qualifying for the 2006 World Cup in Germany was the country’s greatest achievement to date, few will forget the row over player bonuses that erupted during the tournament and almost led to a general team walkout and a resignation by then coach Otto Pfister.
The team recently went through months of uncertainty after trainer Henri Stambouli quit in September of 2008 over a disagreement with the notorious Federation and were without a coach until only three weeks ago when they appointed Belgian Jean Thissen as a replacement. While Thissen has had next to no time to properly prepare his squad for the crucial tie versus the Cameroonians, he does take over a well-seasoned group of players who have gained a great deal of experience from their 2006 World Cup experience as well as recent qualifiers.
The fact that their 1-0 win over a respectable Zambian side was earned in Accra is a good omen for the Togolese yet their 2-1 away loss to lowly Swaziland in the same round is nothing less than bizarre. Their most recent away result, a 1-1 tie to the much improved “Stallions” of Burkina Faso is a good sign but Togo will have no room for error in a group composed of heavyweights Cameroon, resurgent Morocco, and dangerous Gabon.
Practically Perfect Cameroon
Standing in Togo’s way are the Indomitable Lions who have been a force in African football for almost as long as anyone can remember. Cameroon hold the record for successive (four) and overall qualifications (five) to the World’s premier sporting event, and have a team packed full of established stars such as Barcelona’s Samuel Eto’o as well as rising talents like Rennes’ Stéphane Mbia.
The team have recovered nicely from the disappointment of losing in the 2008 African Nations Cup final to Egypt. In fact, the team fell twice to the Pharoah’s in the tournament, both in their first and last match of the competition. Nevertheless, whatever defensive shortcomings that the North Africans were able to expose, no team have managed to do it in the same way since.
The West Africans did lose a friendly to South Africa in November but went unbeaten and won all but one of their qualifiers in the last round. While some might argue that they were not heavily tested by Cape Verdes, Tanzania and Mauritius, a recent 3-1 victory over a well known Guinea side showed that the team are on the right track. Add to this the fact that they have had continuity at the head coaching position since the arrival of Otto Pfister and it is clear to even the most casual observer that the Indomitable Lions are favourites both in their first matchup and in the group overall.
Despite having been sidelined for the last six weeks with a hamstring injury that has kept him out of action for his club, Arsenal, Emmanuel Adebayor was still called up to national team duty. The player is unlikely to feature in the matchup considering his fitness level but the fact that coach Thissen wanted him present shows the weight he carries in the team. If he does play it will probably be nothing more than a brief cameo appearance. Nevertheless, his presence will be beneficial to team morale. Adekambi Olufade will be relied on for goals in the absence of The Sparrowhawks' talisman.
Squad: Agassa Kossi, Mensah Cedric, Obilalé Kodjovi, Assimiou Touré, Akakpo Serge, Nibombé Daré, Atsou Franck, Grondin Christophe, Forson Richmond, Mango Senah, Mamah Gaffar, Amewou Komlan, Romao Alaixys, Senaya Junior, Ayité Floyd, Salifou Moustapha, Ahodikpé Euloge, Kassim Gouyazou, Cheriff Touré, Ayité Jonathan, Dossevi Thomas , Olufadé Adekamni, Adebayor Shéyi Emmanuel, Kader Cougbadja, Djako Arafate.
Otto Pfister has shaken things up a little with the inclusion of some young talent to help make up for veterans such as Geremi Njitap and Andre Bikey who are not getting playing time at club level. Meanwhile team pillars such as Carlos Kameni, Jean II Makoun, Rigobert Song as well as a certain top scorer in Europe have all been included.
Squad: Rigobert Song, Geremi Njitap, Samuel Eto’o, Idriss Carlos Kameni, Jean II Makoun, Modeste M’bami, Eric Djemba Djemba, Stéphane Mbia, Daniel Ngom Kome, Somen à Tchoyi, Benoit Assou Ekotto, Gilles Binya, André Bikey, Souleymanou Hamidou, Dorge Kouemaha, Franck Songo’o, Paul Alo’o, Achille Webo, Guy Essame, Armand Deumi, Eric Matoukou, Aurelien Chedjou, Joslain Mayebi.
Togo may be spurred on by a fresh face in Jean Thissen but his arrival has probably come too late to make a significant difference against Africa’s number one ranked side. This coupled with a ban preventing them from playing on home soil as well as the likely loss of Emmanuel Adebayor does not bode well for them. They will fight valiantly as they always do but a superior Cameroon side should be able to get past them with the right amount of focus and application.
Togo 0 – 2 Cameroon
Rami Ayari, Goal.com