- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 13, 2006

12:45 p.m.

FRANKFURT, Germany — Togo got its coach back for its opening World Cup match and even took a halftime lead.

Then everything fell apart in today’s 2-1 loss to South Korea.

South Korea’s long wait for its first World Cup victory on foreign soil ended against the tiny African nation, which put up an unexpectedly spirited performance given the coaching turmoil that ended only moments before the match.

To compound its problems, Togo played with 10 men for the final 37 minutes.

Even though they were defeated, just getting on the field must have come as a relief for the Togolese, who made headlines around the world for the chaos engulfing their camp.

There were doubts until almost game time whether coach Otto Pfister, who resigned on Friday and agreed to come back yesterday, would actually sit on the bench. Nevertheless, he took his place, encouraging his team.

The game will hardly go down in World Cup annals for its quality, but it will make history in South Korea as the nation’s first win outside Asia since the team made its debut in the tournament in 1954.

Substitute Ahn Jung-Hwan, who famously was fired by Perugia after his overtime goal knocked Italy out of the second round of the 2002 World Cup, scored the winner in the 72nd minute. His perfectly placed 25-yard shot beat Togo goalkeeper Kossi Agassa.

Lee-Chun-soo had tied it in the 54th with a free kick that soared over the defensive wall and past Agassa’s outstretched arm. Moments before, Togo captain Jean-Paul Abalo received his second yellow card and was ejected after bringing down Park Ji-Sung just outside the penalty area.

Abalo stumbled while turning, and Park was about to break on goal when he was fouled.

With the man advantage, South Korea dominated possession and had the ball nearly two-thirds of the game. It also outshot Togo 16-9.

Togo went up 1-0 in the 31st minute. Mohammed Kader trapped the ball on his thigh and almost immediately shot home from 15 yards at an acute angle. The ball went in the far side beyond goalkeeper Lee-Woon-jae.

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