Togo’s Eperviers qualified for the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany? on October 8, 2005, after beating Congo Brazzaville 3-2 at home. A historic first qualification for Togo’s national soccer team, who beat the odds against Mali, Senegal, Zambia and Liberia. Here’s a look back at the Eperviers’ historic 2006 World Cup elimination campaign.
A difficult start
Not one of the top nine African teams in qualifying for the 2006 World Cup, Togo had to play two two-legged matches against Equatorial Guinea in the first round of the play-offs to qualify for the group stage. In the first leg, played on October 11, 2003 at Bata’s Estadio de Libertad against Nzalang Nacional, the Éperviers lost 1-0. Sergio Barila won the match for Equatorial Guinea with a penalty converted in the 55th minute. In the second leg, played in Lomé in front of a packed stadium, Togo won 2-0 thanks to goals from Emmanuel Adebayor in the 43rd minute and Moustapha Salifou in the 53rd.
For the remainder of the qualifying campaign for the 2006 World Cup Africa Zone, Togo will inherit a tough group comprising Mali, Zambia, Congo, Liberia and Senegal, quarter-finalists at the previous World Cup in South Korea and Japan 2022. But before the start of the group matches, a great man took charge of the Togolese national team: the man known throughout Africa as the “Boss”, the much-missed Stephen Keshi. Things went badly against Zambia in Lusaka on the first day of the qualifiers. A 1-0 defeat. On the second day in Lomé, Togo pulled off a wonderful surprise against El-Hadj Diouf’s Senegal, Henri Camara, at the Stade de Kégué in Lomé. Victory 3-1. Togo drew 0-0 with Liberia on the third day of the World Cup qualifiers, before beating Congo Brazzaville 2-0 and Mali 1-0 on Matchdays 4 and 5.
One match followed another and so did Togo’s good performances, with further victories over Mali in Bamako (2-1), Zambia (4-1) in Lomé and Liberia (3-0) again in Lomé, and a second draw against Senegal (2-2) in Dakar. At the end of the final day, Togo’s Éperviers are top of their group and face an already-eliminated Congo Brazzaville. However, we’re about to witness a crazy scenario as told by Emmanuel Adebayor.“When we land in Brazzaville, we’re one point away from the World Cup.If we lose or draw with an unfavorable goal-average and Senegal win, we stay at home. We knew that the Senegalese had called some Congolese to tell them not to let the game slip away (laughs). The game started, we got a goal but I equalized. We go into the dressing room and we hear that Senegal are leading 2-0, so we’re no longer qualified,” says the former Togolese soccer star.
“I speak up, I tell the guys: after all our efforts, we can’t be eliminated now and in this way. If we don’t qualify, I’ll never forgive myself and I’ll never forgive you either. We have to change the trend, the people are waiting for us back home with qualification. The match resumes. The Congolese score again. We’re 2-1 down, and Germany is getting further and further away for us. But we believe. Mohamed Kader gets us back in it (2-2) and then we score the third goal, which I barely celebrate (3-2). I run up to the defenders and tell them we’ve got to tighten things up as we’re almost there. The referee whistles for the end of the match. Togo have qualified for the 2006 World Cup.
Jubilant scenes broke out across Togo after the national team’s 3-2 victory over Congo Brazzaville. Monday October 10 was declared a public holiday by the country’s president. This qualification paved the way for a series of crises, but the architects – the late Stephen Keshi, Emmanuel Adebayor, Kader Cougbadja, Sheriff Mama Touré, Nibombe Daré, Jean Paul Abalo, Kossi Agassa and others – will forever go down in soccer history.