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Swiss are favourites against turbulence hit Togo

The chaos that has accompanied the Sparrow Hawks reached a new climax with a threatened boycott of match by players over pay issue.

india Updated: Jun 19, 2006 18:44 IST

As much as Switzerland embodies order, Togo is the epitome of World Cup turmoil.

Entering Monday's match between the two, the chaos that has accompanied the Sparrow Hawks reached a new climax with a threatened boycott over pay by players and an eleventh-hour settlement mediated by FIFA.

FIFA was forced to intervene Sunday and convince the Togolese players to travel to the western German city for the Group G encounter in hopes of finally ending the crisis which has caused the nation's World Cup debut to degenerate into a fiasco.

"It's settled. It's finished," midfielder Thomas Dossevi said of the pay dispute. "We are now going to concentrate on soccer." He said that FIFA had underwritten guarantees by the Togolese federation that the players would receive their bonuses. It was the FIFA guarantees, he said, that prompted mistrustful players to accept the deal.

Soccer's world governing body was forced to act after receiving reports that the players did not want to board a plane from their training base in southern Germany to the match venue in the central city of Dortmund, said FIFA spokesman Andreas Herren.

"There were rumors that they did not want to travel and play tomorrow," Herren said. "This prompted us to open all contact channels to them to appeal to them and think of their responsibility to football and themselves and their country."

"It was a bit of a to and fro in the morning." An evening training session was necessitated because the afternoon practice had to be postponed due to the delayed arrival.

The latest turbulence in the Togolese camp looked set to boost the chances of Switzerland, which reached the World Cup after a 12-year absence and held France to a 0-0 draw in its opener.

The young squad is looking for a victory to ease its way into the second round.

"It's quite rare for us to be seen as the favorite, but the team can deal with it," coach Koebi Kuhn said.

Herren said Togo faced disqualification from the World Cup and further sanctions from FIFA's disciplinary committee if it boycotted the match, which has not happened since the tournament began in 1930.

Togo, one of the surprise African qualifiers, is fighting for survival after losing 2-1 to South Korea in its opener. Although the lowest ranked team at the World Cup, it has caused as many headlines as some previous champions.

Coach Otto Pfister stormed out for three days and returned just hours before the South Korea match to protest the players' repeated absence from training and the federation's inability to settle the pay dispute.

The players, most of whom play on small European clubs, had been seeking euro158,000 (US$200,000) each _ or euro3.6 million (US$4.6 million) _ to play in the tournament, plus euro30,800 (US$39,000) each per win and euro15,800 (US$20,000) per draw.

Togolese federation spokesman Meslan Attolou said the dispute erupted anew Sunday when the players demanded the equivalent of euro76,000 (US$96,000) per player _ about euro1.7 million (US$2.2 million) _ in cash. The government and federation had offered the equivalent of euro46,000 (US$58,000).

While each team is guaranteed 7 million Swiss francs (US$5.7 million, euro4.5 million) from FIFA just for playing in the World Cup, the average income in the coffee-and-yam-growing West African nation is less than euro316 (US$400) per year.

Players refused to give details of the compromise. "We are satisfied," said Dossevi.

Despite the tumult, morale had seemed high and the match's importance was well understood.

"If we don't have a winner tomorrow, it'll be difficult for both teams to reach the next round," Pfister said. "This is what are preparations are based on. It's our last chance, and we are in good spirits."

Swiss defender Ludovic Magnin is expected to be available after a few bruises and sprains against France. Defender Valon Behrami is out with a groin strain. Striker Alexander Frei is fit again.

Kuhn said he wanted a faster game than against France, but concede the mid-afternoon start may threaten that plan. "We always aim for that ... but the climate may not allow us to give you fireworks for 90 minutes," he said.