Togo are a young footballing nation and the Sparrowhawks have only recently found their wings, qualifying for their first ever FIFA World Cup finals at Germany 2006. Affiliated to FIFA since 1960, Togo entered the qualifying tournament for the first time in 1974 and experienced disappointment in eight campaigns before finally clinching a place at football's top table.
The mastermind behind their surprise qualification was coach Stephen Keshi, a former Nigerian international who captained his country at USA 1994. The ex-Anderlecht midfielder took up the reins of the Togolese national team after being removed from his position as assistant coach of Nigeria. But he was fired before the finals in Germany and replaced by Germany's Otto Pfister.
Perhaps understandably, the Sparrowhawks struggled in their three matches in Germany, losing 2-1 to Korea Republic, 2-0 to Switzerland and 2-0 to France. The fledgling team, one of the youngest in the tournament, were somewhat overawed by their surroundings and paid heavily for their lack of experience at the very highest level.
Arsenal hit-man Emmanuel Adebayor, who is growing into one of the Premier League's top strikers, has become the new icon of Togolese football. His burgeoning reputation has already overshadowed that of legendary compatriot Frank Fiawoo, who represented Olympique de Marseille and Bastia during the 1960s. The rangy centre-forward also finished the Germany 2006 preliminary tournament as top scorer in the African Zone with 11 goals.
Although Togo have reached the final phase of the CAF Africa Cup of Nations five times, their qualification for the German showpiece remains their greatest footballing exploit.
Few would have predicted such a turnaround in the side's fortunes following their mediocre start to the preliminary campaign, a defeat by Zambia in the opening match of Group 1. However Keshi's men bounced back in style by clocking up four consecutive victories, including a 3-1 home win over the favourites Senegal, who reached the last eight at Korea/Japan 2002. An equaliser by Adebayor on 71 minutes earned Togo a 2-2 draw in the return match, enabling them to qualify two points ahead of the Lions of Teranga.
Unfortunately, Togo could not sustain the momentum generated by their summer 2006 adventure and subsequently failed to qualify for the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations. No doubt the Sparrowhawks will be keen to return to winning ways.
Jean Thissen was charged with leading Togo to South Africa 2010, but was replaced by Frenchman Hubert Velud in early-October 2009.