Live commentary on opening match on BBC World Service and BBC Sport website.
Togo’s footballers arrived home from the Africa Cup of Nations on Sunday as the tournament got under way in Angola.
The players had been keen to stay but Togo president Faure Gnassingbe urged them to withdraw after Friday’s gun attack, which killed three people.
The country’s sports minister has since suggested Togo could return if the Confederation of African Football (Caf) agrees to reorganise their matches.
Three days of mourning for the dead and injured have been declared in Togo.
As he boarded a plane in Cabinda, Togo captain Emmanuel Adebayor said: “We have to mourn our dead. We go back home to do this.”
Despite the postponement of the side’s opening match of the competition against Ghana in the northern enclave of Cabinda on Monday evening, Togo sports minister Christophe Padumhokou Tchao believes it is still possible that they will rejoin the tournament.
“The players are leaving with the bodies of their fallen brothers and we have asked the Confederation of African Football to find an arrangement so we can catch up with the competition later,” he stated.
Togo are in Group B of the competition, with Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast and Ghana.
Caf have yet to respond to the request but the BBC’s Matthew Kenyon in Cabinda believes there are several obstacles to overcome before such a solution could be reached.
“It is something that has been talked about once it became clear that the players are returning home. I suppose it is possible,” he added.
“We haven’t had any word from Caf about how they might rejig the tournament.
“Whether the Togo team, who were ordered back by the government to take part in three days of national mourning, will feel emotionally ready to come back I can’t say. I think we are a long way from it happening.”
Angolan state media reported on Monday morning that two suspects had been arrested over the attack which took place as Togo’s convoy crossed from the Republic of Congo into Cabinda.
An assistant coach, press officer and bus driver were killed while several other players were injured.
A faction of the separatist group, Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda, has claimed responsibility for the 30-minute attack.
Togo’s government insisted its players return home from the tournament because of security fears but reports claimed negotiations were ongoing throughout Sunday.
But as the opening match between Angola and Mali kicked off at 1900 GMT, the Togo team were heading for the airport and their flight to Lome took off at 2040.
In the tournament’s opening ceremony in Luanda, Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos condemned the attack and a minute’s silence was observed before the first match.
Angola were 4-0 up with 11 minutes to go but Mali fought back to clinch a 4-4 draw.
Togo striker Adebayor, who plays in the Premier League with Manchester City, said his players initially wanted to leave Angola but had a change of heart following a team meeting.
However, following further consultations with Togo government officials, he accepted the authorities’ wishes.
He said: “This Friday at 1430, we were all dead on that bus. We sent our last messages to our families. We called our family to say our last words. I told myself: ‘If you’re still there on the ground in Angola, why not [play]?’
“The authorities decided we should return [home], so we will return.”
Adebayor also revealed he spoke to members of the Ivory Coast and Ghana camps and agreed with their decision to remain in the competition.
“They expressed their support by saying they were ready to leave the competition if we did,” revealed Adebayor.
“[But] at the end of the day, we realised that they were ready to continue. It is still a continent where a World Cup will take place in South Africa.
“If we speak of the dead, the competition should have been cancelled but the Confederation of African Football has decided otherwise.
“We’re going back and we wish good luck to those who will remain, especially to Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast and Ghana.
“What I have told their leaders is that they may be attacked at any time in Cabinda. I hope they will be cautious.”
Team-mate Thomas Dossevi said part of the players’ motivation for wanting to stay was to honour those killed and French paper L’Equipe quoted another player, Alaixys Romao, as saying the team would not “leave like cowards”.
Earlier on Sunday, Togo prime minister Gilbert Houngbo said while he understood the feelings of the players and believed the competition should go ahead, the government stood by its decision to call the team back to Togo.
“We took into account their last-minute change of mind,” Houngbo told the BBC. “Up to midnight last night, they were all unanimous that they wanted to come back.
“After the delegation that we sent to visit them left, then they had another meeting and all of a sudden they changed their mind and we do respect that.
“But we explained to them through their captain Adebayor that in memory of those who had lost their lives, we also need to take into account what the families also think is the best way to pay tribute to them.”
Houngbo criticised Caf, claiming it had not given Togo any information to assess the security situation after the attack.
“So far we did not even have a single call, even a call of sympathy, from Caf,” he stated.
“We do not even have information that will allow us to have an assessment from a security standpoint, taking into account what has happened.”
The Togolese government has demanded Angola explain why it was not warned of the dangers of travel in Cabinda, where the bus was ambushed.
Angolan officials had earlier expressed surprise that the team had travelled there by road from their base in the Republic of Congo.
Caf had already said it understood Togo’s initial decision to withdraw but that the six other matches scheduled to be played in Cabinda would go ahead.
And Caf president Issa Hayatou said he had received a guarantee from the Angolan government that security would be increased for all teams and at all venues.
Togolese officials revealed the driver had died at the scene, while media officer Stanislas Ocloo and assistant coach Amalete Abalo died later in hospital.
Reserve goalkeeper Kodjovi Obilale, who was shot twice, was flown to a hospital in South Africa and remains in a critical but stable condition.
Source BBC SPORT