Nelspruit — Togo wrote a piece of history for themselves at the African Nations Cup on Wednesday, gaining the point they needed off Tunisia to advance to the quarter-finals.
The 1-1 draw means they meet Burkina Faso in the last eight on Sunday with a chance at again proving their ability to overcome conflicts and problems within the team and unexpectedly perform on an international stage.
Emmanuel Adebayor was expected to be centre stage but it was the South African referee Daniel Bennett who will hog the headlines after he gave Tunisia two penalties, turned down a legitimate-looking claim for Adebayor and then booked the wrong Togolese player. Togo, while celebrating their win, left the field at Nelspruit's Mbombela Stadium, feeling decidedly hard done by.
But if truth be told they also had some good fortune in the game when they took the lead in the 13th minute through Serge Gakpe. Adebayor played a telling ball through, although Gakpe looked suspiciously offside before steering it wide of the Tunisia goalkeeper.
Togo started much the livelier of the two teams and were in control for the first 20 minutes, during which they set up several good chances for themselves, culminating in the goal.
Tunisia struggled to get into the game but were awarded a penalty in the 30th minute. Dare Nibombe was penalised for wrestling Tunisia's Walid Hicheri to the ground in a scrap ahead of a corner and Khaled Mouelhi converted the subsequent kick.
Togo again proved the more enterprising in the second half, with Adebayor using his pace and strength to set up several chances that his teammates squandered and then hit the crossbar himself with a header in the 70th minute. Just before that Bennett had cautioned Nibombe when he should have booked Serge Akakpo and this injustice was enflamed when Adebayor went tumbling down as he tried to round the goalkeeper in search of a second goal but was not awarded a penalty.
The situation reached boiling point five minutes later when Nibombe clipped Saber Khlifa from behind and Bennett awarded another penalty - after a few seconds' deliberation. Needing to score to win, Mouelhi sent the keeper the wrong way but hit the upright.
Togolese tempers then ran unchecked with four players booked in rapid succession.