Switzerland will go into Friday's final Group G matches knowing that a draw with South Korea will take them through to the second phase for the first time since 1994. Tranquillo Barnetta's late flourish finally ended a surprisingly spirited challenge by the would-be militants of Togo, leaving the Swiss-dominated Westfalenstadion anything but tranquillo.
Barnetta's angled drive, which doubled the advantage created by Alex Frei's early goal, was potentially crucial. It gave Switzerland a goal difference of plus two, compared with the Koreans' plus one. France, who face a Togo side that has now been eliminated after a campaign blighted by a dispute over bonuses, will reach the last 16 provided they win by two goals or more - whatever result their rivals produce.
The Togo team had threatened not to fulfil this fixture if their demands were not met by their federation. Fifa persuaded them of the folly of strike action, and there were signs last night that the players expected the full amount in their bank accounts this morning. If it remains unpaid, a further meeting will be held before the game with France.
The trouble within the ranks of the West African squad had led to an assumption that their German coach, Otto Pfister, would present a demoralised team, ripe for a thrashing. Far from playing sullen, de-motivated football, however, Togo performed with such resilience - allied to a level of technique which Switzerland could not match - that they were still pressing hard to salvage a point until the second goal.
Kobi Kuhn, the victorious coach, may just have been on to something with his reply after being asked whether Togo's problems had helped Switzerland. "I know Otto and the way he works, and that was a piece of theatre staged by him," he said "They were extremely motivated."
Kuhn and the players said they were overwhelmed by the mood in the stadium. Thousands of Swiss fans filled the 65,000-seat arena, while Togo fans numbered only a few hundred.
Pfister praised his players' "100 per cent effort". Although giving a brusque "no comment" on the dispute, he added that the past few weeks had been "extremely difficult". Turning his attention to France, he speculated that he might use the five players who have yet to see action - a suggestion that will not go down well with the Swiss or the Koreans.
Togo, relying mainly on players from semi-professional football in France, already looked the more assured side when they fell behind after 16 minutes. Ludovic Magnin left Toure Assimiou trailing on the left before crossing to the far side of the area, where Barnetta met the ball with a first-time pass which Frei diverted home.
Arsenal's Emmanuel Adebayor, a towering Kanu-like figure with tricks to match, was prominent in Togo's reply. He helped set up a free shot which Thomas Dossevi fired hurriedly wide, and he had a strong claim for a penalty when he fell - perhaps too dramatically for the Paraguayan referee's liking - as Patrick Mueller's back foot caught him.
But without penetration, all Togo's possession counted for nothing. Switzerland, having deployed Frei as a lone attacker as they switched to 4-5-1 in the second half, carried greater menace on the break and put the game beyond reach with just two minutes remaining. Mauro Lustrinelli, on for Frei, passed across the area for Barnetta. A low shot ensured there would be no share of the spoils for Togo, at least in footballing if not financial terms.Reuse content