FRANKFURT -- Obscure Togo, the lowest-ranked team at the World Cup, has caused the biggest stir. Even in defeat.
The Sparrow Hawks were beaten, 2-1, by South Korea yesterday in their debut on soccer's biggest stage, but the game was merely part of the chaos that has surrounded the team recently.
Who would coach Togo remained a mystery right up until game time, when Otto Pfister appeared on the sideline, providing at least temporary stability to a bizarre situation.
And Togo even led at halftime, an almost unthinkable feat considering the off-field turmoil the team has been dealing with, including a dispute between players and the Togo soccer federation over financial compensation.
``This situation is definitely very hard," defender Toure Assimiou said. ``You're in the World Cup for the first time and then something like this happens."
Togo played with 10 men for the final 37 minutes, too, allowing the more experienced South Koreans to finally to take control. Substitute Ahn Jung Hwan scored the winner in the 72d minute, perfectly placing a 25-yard shot to beat Togo goalkeeper Kossi Agassa.
``We had the Koreans under control," Pfister said. ``But then after the red card, it was different."
On Monday, Pfister was back at his home in Zurich after quitting as coach over the weekend in a show of solidarity for his players. The 68-year-old German stormed out of the team's hotel early Saturday morning, hours after the country's prime minister had come to Germany in an attempt to broker a compromise to the money dispute. The team announced on Monday he was coming back, but when he didn't show up at Togo's hotel on time Monday night, there were more questions about who would be on the sideline for the Sparrow Hawks.
Togo took a lead in the 31st minute when Mohammed Kader trapped the ball on his thigh and shot home from 15 yards.
Then everything fell apart in the second half.
Togo captain Jean-Paul Abalo received his second yellow card and was ejected after bringing down Park Ji Sung just outside the penalty area in the 53d minute. Lee Chun Soo's free kick soared over the defensive wall and past Agassa to tie the score.