Emmanuel Adebayor has a point to prove as Togo draw with Ivory Coast
GABON -- Emmanuel Adebayor might only have played a handful of games since last season but he has lost none of his brash confidence and, not for the first time, seems to be revelling in the role of spoiler.
At 32, and without a club since departing Crystal Palace in May, Adebayor understandably huffed and puffed his way through the latter stages of Togo's opening Group C game at the African Nations Cup, but a 0-0 draw with the holders Ivory Coast means the underdogs emerged as the moral victors.
Adebayor has only managed a few qualifying matches and friendly internationals over the last six months to keep up his fitness, but there was never any doubt about his leading the team at the tournament.
The former Arsenal, Man City, Tottenham and Real Madrid striker's talismanic presence has seen Togo successfully punch above their weight for a decade, going to the World Cup in Germany in 2006, in one of African football's biggest surprises, and reaching the Nations Cup quarterfinals in 2013.
With the legendary Claude Le Roy now guiding the side, there is a sense Togo might be capable of toppling the established order again. A suggestion Adebayor was keen to expand on after the game.
"We are very happy [with the draw], but nothing has been achieved yet," he told reporters. "I believe that we came to disrupt this Nations Cup and so it is a good point taken by us against the title holders."
Togo's next opponents are Morocco, who looked the better of the two sides in Monday's second Group C game but still ended up losing 1-0 to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
"It is up to us to be physically and psychologically ready to have an equally competitive match against the Moroccans," Adebayor added.
Morocco have consistently underperformed at previous finals and, despite an exciting squad which includes Juventus' Medhi Benatia, they are again under pressure -- another defeat spells almost certain early elimination.
The Nations Cup is a chance for Adebayor to prove himself once more and earn another contract -- he had talks with Lyon last year and the French media have recently linked him with Montpellier, so there are plenty of suitors around.
Indeed, the evidence so far is that he hardly seems bothered by an absence of routine and weekly competition. But he will need to improve his fitness, even if he believes he got through Monday's game in satisfactory shape.
"Well, I did not have a problem. Sheyi is still Sheyi," he said, referring to his nickname. "I showed what I'm capable of. I never had any doubts about my qualities. I showed it again this afternoon. All in all, Togo had a good game."
Mark Gleeson covers African football for ESPN FC.