BY KUNLE SOLAJA
When the Super Eagles of Nigeria file out on Thursday at Stade Municipal de Saint Leu Lat Foret in Paris to face the Hawks of Togo, it will be the first encounter in 26 years for the two countries that are almost within shouting distance of one another.
Sports Village Square recalls that both teams last met on January 27, 1991 in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier which final event took place in Senegal the following year.
Already, the Super Eagles’ camp is bubbling with excitements and great expectations as the friendly encounter will be the last match before the crucial Africa Cup of Nations qualifying duel with South Africa in Uyo.
“Tomorrow night, our @NGSuperEagles battle @LesEperviers of Togo in Paris #NGATOG #SoarSuperEagles #SuperEagles” a tweet from the NFF twitter handle gleefully announced.
The match kicks off at 7pm Nigerian time. Ahead of Thursday’s encounter, both Nigeria and Togo had met 16 times with the results swaying largely in the favour of the Super Eagles.
Nigeria had won eight of the encounters, drew five, including the last match and lost three. These statistics only speak a little about the encounters. The two of the three matches Nigeria lost to Togo had immense effects.
Sports Village Square recalls that despite the good run that the Nigerian team had while hosting the West African zonal qualifier for the first All Africa Games held in Congo Brazzaville, it was the 2-1 loss to Togo in the opening match on December 27, 1964 that eventually cost Nigeria a place at the All Africa Games.
The 6-1 defeat of Burkina Faso (then Upper Volta), 4-0 mauling of Niger Republic and the 1-1 draw in the abandoned match with Benin Republic (then Dahomey) all counted for nothing as Togo also beat all those countries to get the ticket for the football event of the All Africa Games.
The next loss was a 0-1 away loss to Togo which was reversed with a 4-2 win in the return leg for the 1968 Africa Nations Cup qualifier. But the last loss was a bashing.
A star-studded Nigerian side parading the likes of Stephen Keshi, Muda Lawal, Ademola Adeshina, Kingsley Paul among others, was left dazed after a 5-2 bashing by Togo in the semi-final of 1983 WAFU Cup.
It remained the heaviest defeat Nigeria suffered from any West African side apart from the pre-history 0-7 loss to Ghana (Gold Coast at the time) in 1955.
Togo was the third country Nigeria faced in an international match after that of Sierra Leone in 1949 and traditional rivals, Ghana (formerly Gold Coast).
Nigeria’s first encounter with the then Togoland was on October 6, 1956 and had the then Premier of Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo in attendance. He came from Ibadan to watch the match which to most Nigerians was disappointing on account of the 1-1 draw and a foreign coach, Leslie Courtier handling Nigeria for the first time.
NIGERIA versus TOGO Head-to-Head
October 6, 1956: Nigeria 1-1 Togo (Lagos, Friendly)
December 29, 1964: Nigeria 1-2 Togo (Lagos, All-Africa Games Qualifier)
March 6, 1966: Nigeria 1-0 Togo (Lagos, Friendly)
April 9, 1966: Nigeria 1-0 Togo (Lagos Friendly)
April 2, 1967: Togo 1-0 Nigeria (Lome, Afcon Qualifier)
April 15, 1967: Nigeria 4-2 Togo (Lagos, Afcon Qualifier)
April 23 1975: Togo 0-1 Nigeria (Dakar, Friendly)
June 13, 1980: Togo 0-1 Nigeria (Lome, Friendly)
July 9, 1983: Nigeria 2-1 Togo (Ibadan, Olympics Qualifier)
July 27, 1983: Togo 1-1 Nigeria (Lome, Olympics Qualifier)
December 16, 1983: Togo 5-2 Nigeria (Abidjan, WAFU Cup)
July 29, 1986: Togo 2-2 Nigeria (Lome, Friendly)
March 18, 1987: Nigeria 2-0 Togo (Lagos, Afcon Qualifier)
April 2, 1987: Togo 1-1 Nigeria (Lome, Afcon Qualifier)
August 18, 1990: Nigeria 3-0 Togo (Lagos, Afcon Qualifier)
January 27, 1991: Togo 0-0 Nigeria (Lome, Afcon Qualifier)