Adebayor proud to make history with Togo
NELSPRUIT, South Africa (AP) -Two months ago, Emmanuel Adebayor was willing to skip the African Cup of Nations.
Now he wants to win it.
The Tottenham striker has played a key role in helping Togo achieve its first quarterfinal at a major tournament.
Adebayor scored the opener in Togo's 2-0 victory over Algeria at the weekend, then set up the goal that ultimately earned a 1-1 draw with Tunisia on Wednesday and secured its place in the knockout rounds.
But only two months ago he threatened to skip the tournament in a dispute with the Togo Football Federation. Happily for both sides, they had time to settle their differences over security arrangements and bonuses.
"I'm very proud of my country, of what we have been through,'' Adebayor said. "I think you guys know it better than I do that two months ago when we qualified against Gabon we went through a lot of difficult moments, of me coming to the African Cup of Nations or not coming.
"Today I'm here and I'm very happy - I'm part of the history.''
Togo will face Burkina Faso in Sunday's quarterfinal at Mbombela Stadium, having finished second in Group D behind tournament favorite Ivory Coast.
While qualification from the tough group represented an achievement in itself for the team from the tiny west African nation, Adebayor has raised his sights considerably.
"We can even go ahead of what we think we can do, and I hope now we have a chance to win the cup. We just have to go for it now,'' he said.
As Togo did a lap of honor in the aftermath of a controversy-filled match, in which Tunisia was awarded two penalties and South African referee Daniel Bennett turned down several others for both teams, thoughts turned back to the tragedy Togo endured in Angola before the African Cup three years ago.
Two members of its traveling party were killed in a gun attack on the team bus, while goalkeeper Kodjovi Obilale was badly hurt and hasn't played since.
"It's a historic thing. We feel very sorry for those people,'' Adebayor said. "We had a nice team together, and some of those people have gone. It's a tough one.''
The pitch in Nelspruit has made attractive football a rare sight, as players struggle with the slow, bumpy surface.
Local organizers dumped sand on the pitch in the week before the tournament to counter heavy rainfall, and Adebayor joined the growing number of critics.
"Those people that watch the game in Europe, they will be sending SMSes to me tonight asking, `Are you playing in the bush or what?' It's a disgrace to our continent, we can do better,'' he said.
"But at the end of the day we are here and we have to find a way to play.''
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