France won their first World Cup match in eight years to secure a 2-0 win over Togo and earn a place in the last 16.
The win takes the 1998 champions through to a mouth-watering clash with Spain in the second round, although they will have to improve considerably if they are to progress further in the competition.
France coach Raymond Domenech included Mikael Silvestre and Franck Ribery in place of the suspended Zinedine Zidane and Eric Abidal suspended. David Trezeguet also came in for Sylvain Wiltord.
Togo coach Otto Pfister made several changes bringing in four new faces – Jean Paul Abalo, Moustapha Salifou, Junior Senaya and Yao Aziawanou.
Trezeguet came close to opening the scoring after just 3 minutes when the ball ricocheted off Henry to his strike partner, but his shot on the turn just went wide of the post. The Juventus forward had another chance two minutes later but his header was tipped over by Agassa.
Trezeguet did have the ball in the back of the net, when he was set up by Ribery but the linesman had raised his flag for offside. It was a close decision and Trezeguet was clearly unhappy with it, but television replays confirmed that the official had got it right.
France were creating plenty of chances but their finishing did not match the quality of their approach play. There was a suspicion that the tension of the occasion was getting to them, and the knowledge that they had gone eight years without a win at the finals, cannot have helped.
Togo meanwhile were defending in numbers, and other than an effort by Kader which Barthez saved comfortably, they posed little as an attacking force.
A further example of their anxiety was evident when Henry set up Ribery but the Marseille man blazed over when he should have scored. On the occasions that France did hit the target they came up against Agassa who was in inspired form in the Togo goal.
The referee’s whistle signalled the end of a frustrating half for the French. They had dominated possession, created a number of chances, but a lack of confidence in front of goal meant that their World Cup hopes were hanging by a thread.
France cut Togo open once again shortly after the restart, but Ribery, with time and space, lifted his shot over the bar.
Eventually the pressure told and France took the lead on 55 minutes. Ribery, who had been guilty of a couple of glaring misses set up Vieira and the French skipper turned and curled a left-footed effort into the top corner.
Moments later as France looked for the second goal that would guarantee them a place in the second round, Henry was culpable of a terrible miss when he volleyed Sagnol’s inviting cross from just five yards out.
The Arsenal striker didn’t have to wait long to make amends when he collected a flick on from Vieira, took a touch and fired a low shot past Agassa.
After scoring their second, France spent long spells retaining possession without actually attempting to move forward in search of another goal. The negative approach was jeered by the French supporters, who were aware that such an attitude had seen Les Bleus concede a late goal against South Korea in their previous game.
Despite their anxiety, the points were safe as Togo really had nothing to offer going forward. Nonetheless, this is still an unconvincing French side. With or without Zidane, their challenge lacks credibility at the moment and a second round tie against a vibrant Spain side could well mark the end of their challenge.
France: Fabien Barthez, Willy Sagnol, Lilian Thuram, William Gallas, Mikael Silvestre, Franck Ribery, Patrick Vieira, Claude Makelele, Florent Malouda, Thierry Henry, David Trezeguet.
Subs used: Wiltord 74 (for Malouda), Govou 77 (for Ribery), Diarra 81 (for Vieira).
Bookings: Makelele 30
Togo: Kossi Agassa, Richmond Forson, Dare Nibombe, Massamasso Tchangai, Jean-Paul Abalo, Moustapha Salifou, Cherif Toure Mamam, Yao Aziawonou, Junior Senaya, Emmanuel Adebayor, Mohamed Kader.
Subs used: 59 (for Mamam), Dossevi 75 (for Adebayor).
Bookings: Aziawonou 37, Cherif-Toure 44, Salifou 88
Referee: Jorge Larrionda (Uruguay).
France: Vieira 55, Henry 61