Through late April, SI.com will profile two World Cup teams a week. We continue with Togo. Click here for the full archive.
FIFA world ranking: No. 61.
How they qualified for Germany: Won Africa's Group 1 with a 7-2-1 record, two points ahead of '02 quarterfinalist Senegal.
Previous World Cups: None.
Manager: Otto Pfister, first year with team.
Without a doubt, the engine that landed tiny Togo in Germany this summer is lanky 6-foot-3 striker Emmanuel Adebayor. The 21-year-old scored 11 goals in qualifying, the highest total of any African player. Adebayor is a raw talent and a true straight-to-prime-time story who was plucked for national-team duty in his teens, subsequently catching the eyes of European scouts. His professional career has been somewhat stormy, as a promising beginning in France turned sour. Frustrated over a lack of playing time at Monaco, Adebayor skipped several practices and was kicked off the team. Some punishment -- Arsenal snapped him up two days later and signed him to a long-term deal. He has found his scoring touch again as a timely bench player for the English giants, which doesn't bode well for Togo's opponents: He's a hungry, young player and his nose for the goal is undeniable.
A team like this needs leadership, and Togo has to look no further than its captain, Jean-Paul Abalo. The 30-year-old defender is the team's elder statesman, and its only real player with any kind of experience. Abalo has 64 international caps and is the Sparrow Hawks' longest-tenured club player, having spent 10 seasons at France's SC Amiens before moving on to Cyprus' Apoel this year.
What to watch for
Simply qualifying for the World Cup is an enormous victory for Togo, a tiny West African nation with a population of 5.5 million. The Sparrow Hawks shocked everyone by crashing the party, beating out group favorites Senegal and Zambia and adding to a major shift in the balance of power in Africa. Four of the five teams headed to Germany are first-time participants, while traditional powerhouses Cameroon, Nigeria and Egypt are staying home.
Even so, Togo is embroiled in turmoil as it gears up for the Cup. The joy of qualifying was short-lived, as the Sparrow Hawks crashed out of the African Cup of Nations without winning a single match. That lead to the ouster of former head coach Stephen Keshi, who had built a strong family atmosphere amongst a group of very young, inexperienced players. The former Nigerian captain reportedly had a falling out with Adebayor, who is likely developing a bit of an ego now that he's succeeding with one of the world's most prominent clubs.
Pfister shook up his final roster in an effort to revitalize a group with badly damaged self-confidence. The German went on a last-minute recruiting swing through Europe and brought on six players with zero caps among them, including 18-year-old Touré Assimiou, a reserve defender with Bayer Leverkusen. Still, it'll be a huge surprise if the Sparrow Hawks make major noise. If Togo wins even one match in Germany, its Cup experience will be considered a wild success.
Group: G (France, Switzerland, South Korea)
Key match in group stage: June 19 vs. Switzerland. The Sparrow Hawks have the ability to surprise a team that takes them lightly, and the Swiss will be looking as this match as their best chance for an easy win.