Lackluster Turkey plays to empty tribunes, draws 2-2 with Ghana
Turkish players celebrate their squad's second goal in front of non-existent fans in Istanbul's Olympic Stadium. DHA photo
Turkey has failed to earn a much-yearned-for friendly victory, drawing 2-2 with Ghana to the dismay of the handful of fans who trickled to Istanbul's Olympic Stadium, despite the national squad displaying all of its stars during a last test ahead of critical games against Romania and Andorra.
Asamoah Gyan spoiled with a brace in the second half the end of a long series of matches without victories in friendly games. Galatasaray's strikers Burak Yılmaz and Umut Bulut had both scored for Turkey in the first half.
While steering clear of underestimating their rivals of the day, the Turkish squad seemed to have overestimated a bit its own capacity to appeal to fans and draw them in masses to the arena, as only a few thousand spectators occupied the 82,000 seats of the Olympic Stadium. Of those, only 106 had bought tickets, according to reports, the others having come on invitation.
One person well-accustomed to such low attendance at Istanbul's flagship gargantuan stadium is arguably coach Abdullah Avcı, under fire for poor results, whose municipality-funded Istanbul Büyükşehir Belediyesi used to play its games in the remote suburb to make a show for a dozen curious and football-passionate fans and keep the pitch warm.
Avcı's pupils may have surpassed IBB's average attendance, but still failed to show enough consistency to overturn an ill-fated World Cup qualifying run. Turkey is fourth in the Group D with seven points after six games, and needs a victory in Romania Sept. 10 to eventually secure the second place in the group for a playoff spot on the way to Brazil.
The top scorer of the last three campaigns of the Super League, Yılmaz opened the score as early as the 5th minute, proving once more his finishing talent during a scramble in Ghana's area following a corner kick. The striker, who is reportedly followed closely by European clubs, could have doubled the score during a fast counter-attack in the 24th minute, but he put the ball wide.
His attacking partner in Galatasaray, Umut Bulut, was not going to miss four minutes later, as he headed into the net a long-range center by Hamit Altıntop.
The half-time break proved propitious for Ghana. With their star Gyan on the pitch, the African heavyweights outplayed the home side. Gyan reduced the score in the 61st minute with a shot that goalkeeper Volkan Demirel failed to block. In the 66th minute, he took advantage of Turkish defenders' passivity to head the ball into the net for the equalizer.
Yılmaz found the net once more in the 83th minute, but his goal was disqualified by the referee as offside.
The Turkish squad will now try to not commit the same errors during the decisive Romania game.
"Our chances [of making it to the World Cup] could be seen as at 5 percent now. But we can take our chances to 90 percent after just one game. We want to use our chance in the best way possible," Avcı had said before the friendly.
Avcı's performance as the national team coach has been largely disappointing, since he has led the team to only six wins in 17 matches, losing eight times.