Monday, June 19, 2006

Switzerland 2 Togo 0

So Togo loses and is officially eliminated from second round contention. This must be a relief to FIFA, which undoubtedly was not thrilled in the least with dealing with all of the Togolese melodrama. I can almost hear Sepp Blatter sighing in relief.

Can you imagine what may have gone down if Togo had advanced? Their demands may have included a private jet for every member of the team.

The ridiculous near-boycott probably wasn't entirely the fault of the Togo players. They say they were promised a share of the spoils Togo made for appearing in the World Cup and I don't necessarily doubt them. Hey, this is Africa, where corruption in goverment is more common than news about MySpace predators. So I wouldn't doubt for a second that the powers that be among the Togo soccer federation made promises they never intended to keep and pocketed the money all for themselves. For players hailing from utter poverty in almost every case, this would be a grievous affront, and one well worth making a fuss about.

On the other hand, the demands of the Togo players seemed to lean toward the extreme. Allegedly, they were asking for $200,000 apiece plus further varying amounts for any wins and ties. Now, this is just absurd. Players worldwide for the most part make virtually nothing for representing their countries. It's just not the way things are done. Sure, they may get a small portion of the pie or be offered incentives for success, but by and large, getting to don the colors of your country with the entire planet watching is payment enough. I thought everybody understood this, but I guess not. International soccer isn't about a paycheck; that's what club soccer is for. This would be like Dwyane Wade agreeing to represent the U.S. basketball team only if he was handsomely paid. It just doesn't this way.

Granted, many players from bigger, more successful countries have already been made ludicrously rich by their big time clubs while Togo's players most likely make minimal money in lower leagues, but still, they went a long way toward ruining what was supposed to be perhaps the greatest experience of their lives. This is the World Cup. It's once every four years. Togo had never qualified previously and who knows when they'll qualify again, if ever? And they made a mess of it. Show some pride, money be damned.

They threatened to boycott their first game against South Korea. Then their coach, Otto Pfister, quit for a few days. Then he returned. Then they changed their minds and decided to show up and promptly lost to South Korea. Then they threatened not to show up against Switzerland. Then they changed their minds and decided to do so and promptly went out and lost to the Swiss. See a pattern developing here?

Terrell Owens looks reasonable in comparison.

It's a shame, too. Togo may have been more competitve had they not embroiled themselves in so much troublesome drama. They looked the better side for much of the game today and should have been awarded an obvious penalty kick in the first half when Emanuel Adebayor was clearly taken down in the box. They trailed 1-0 at the time and a goal there could have been huge. You almost couldn't help the feeling that FIFA had nudged today's ref before the game and told him to ease Togo towards elimination. FIFA was surely tired of the bullshit and will be glad to see the Togolese heading home. Either that, or it was just absolutely awful officiating. Awful.

Togo then spent much of the second half attacking, and while rather fluid at times, they just couldn't find the final pass to break the resilient Swiss defense. The Swiss scored one goal early (Alexander Frei) and one goal late (Tranquillo Barnetta) - both goals being well-struck gems - and played a lot of defense in between. Now they sit atop the group with four points along with South Korea, who they will meet on Friday. France dangles perilously.

This guy must be crushed...

How long do you think it takes to get all that body paint off?


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