Park Ji-sung hopes to come up with a fine show

FRANKFURT: Soccer has become secondary to Togo, overwhelmed by endless pay and management crises as the Sparrow Hawks head into their World Cup debut against South Korea.

For the Koreans, on the other hand, all the talk is about tactics and team spirit.

The Asian side heads into Tuesday's match as the favourite against a West African team that lost coach Otto Pfister days before the World Cup and is still agonising over a replacement.

Germany's Winfried Schaefer, who coached Cameroon in 2002, said he would only be interested in doing the job if the team sorted itself out by Monday.

No deal reached

Team officials had more talks with Schaefer on Monday, after a meeting at the team base in Wangen on Sunday. But no deal was reached.

Togolese federation spokesman Messan Attolou said that Mawuena Kodjovi, who was named as interim coach on Saturday, would lead Monday's training and not Schaefer.

Players have been at odds with the Togolese federation over bonuses since the African Cup of Nations in January.

Forward Emmanuel Adebayor, who plays for Arsenal and is the only well-known player on the team, on Sunday put the blame firmly on the federation, which is headed by the Rock Gnassingbe, the brother of the country's President.

But he said the players were trying to focus on the World Cup.

``We want to prove to the world that we are footballers and we are hungry for victory,'' Adebayor said. ``We know it's the World Cup. It's the best tournament in the world. We have to give our best. We have to represent Africa.''

He did however admit that he didn't know much about the South Korean side. Other teams in the group are France and Switzerland.

South Korea has been watching the events in the Togolese camp with quiet glee. But coach Dick Advocaat said the team was not going to be fooled into a false sense of security.

``You never know if it's an advantage or disadvantage that there are some problems,'' Advocaat said. ``You can also say because there are some problems that the team will unite more than normal.'' The coach refused to disclose if he would play with three defenders and four midfielders, or four defenders and three midfielders along with its three strikers against the Africans.

Manchester United midfielder Park Ji-sung expects to play a crucial role in the opener even if that is as a decoy.

``Because I'm the best-known player, (the Togolese) may look at me a lot more. And I think that will leave our other players more space,'' Park said.

Lowest team

Togo, ranked 61st by FIFA the lowest at the tournament has lost seven of nine matches since completing its World Cup campaign in October, including all three at the African Cup in January. The Hawks' only victories have come against Ghana and Liechtenstein.

It fired coach Stephen Keshi after the African Cup and then appointed Pfister, who stormed out on Friday after the team failed to settle the pay row.

Kodjovi, who was assistant to Pfister, has been with the team since 1994. AP

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