Friday, June 23, 2006

France is eliminated if they lose today. If the shadow game Switzerland-South Korea ends in a draw, then France needs to beat Togo with a minimum of two goals.
Togo cannot make it to round two anymore and will play for honors. France faith is in the balance.
Their star player, Sedan, will not be playing, since he has two bookings in the previous games and has to sit this one out. Sad story, if you consider he is retiring and this tournament is his goodbye to soccer. If France is eliminated today, we will not see him play soccer anymore.
France knows the stakes and they start furious. Henry, a French striker, receives a deep pass not far from the box. He stumbles over the ball and France looses possession, Henry still needs to warm up. Togo flunks the play and the ball rebounds to France. The keeper of Togo stretches his hand high to the ball in a reflex.

"What a tremendous save," shouts the commentator.
Eight minutes in the game Togo build their first serious attack on the French goal. A striker from Togo fires at the goal from a sharp angle. The French keeper dives in the grass and punches the ball away.
"He got to be able to hold that one," says the commentator.
France grows fast into the game and takes the goal of Togo under fire. In the sixteenth minute, Henry dribbles into the penalty box. He fakes a shot, cuts the ball back and shoots. He fooled the defense of Togo, but not the keeper.
Togo counters, but bounces of the French defense.
"France really buckling down on those counters," says the commentator.
France is taking control in the back and in the front; however they cannot place the ball into Togo's net.
"France is missing that final touch," says the commentator while France crosses the ball through Togo's penalty box, without a shot on goal.
France ponders Togo’s goal until the halftime whistle, still it is nil-nil.
Early in the second half, Henry takes a free kick, thirty meters of the goal. He blasts the ball over the pitch, straight at the target. There is too much traffic in the penalty box, and his shot is deflected.
Togo throws everything they got on the pitch to hold off the French. I even see a hand reach for the ball, the world cup virus.
France finally delivers when a striker accepts a ball fifteen meters in front of the goal. He turns and fires.


Two minutes later Henry is rewarded for all his efforts when he finally strikes the target. The keeper of Togo can only look on, while he bounces on his bum in the wrong corner.


France knows they qualify no matter the outcome of the shadow game, all they need to do is hold on to the score. Still France attacks, nearly scoring a third.
Togo tries to the bitter end to score one goal for their nation.
"The French defense has been too stern," says the commentator, putting Togo's performance in perspective.
The fans of Togo dance in the stands anyway, I guess their dream lingers.
France blew new life in their dream, they will play Spain in the second round.