National team happy with win but tension remains
AA PhotoTurkey’s national team beat Kosovo 2-0 late on Nov. 12 in a 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers match at home but the win failed to ease the tensions inside the team.
Turkey drew with Ukraine and Croatia in the first two matches of the qualifiers before being beaten by Iceland in the third game, with coach Fatih Terim facing a flow of criticism for not including Barcelona attacking midfielder Arda Turan and Burak of China’s Beijing Guoan in the squad.
Terim, who had surprisingly left Arda and Burak out of the team following a row over premium payments after Turkey’s unsuccessful Euro 2016 campaign last summer, said he was not emotionally satisfied with recalling the duo.
He also dismissed speculation that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had called him to convince him on the issue.
“What Emre and Arda told me was enough for me to take [them],” Terim said in a post-game interview.
Media reports said last week that former Turkish international Emre Belözoğlu mediated over phone to resolve the intra-squad problem.
“Talking first with Emre and then with Arda satisfied me. Frankly, this is not a decision that I made comfortably. I cannot disregard what has occurred. But we are professionals and can make such decision,” he said.
Arda said Turkey did not play well against Kosovo but achieved what it needed to.
“I have always worn the jersey of the national team with honor and pride. This is what I said when I was at Galatasaray, Atletico Madrid or Barcelona. If they tell us to come, then we come in, if they tell us to go, we leave. This is the manner we have been taught,” he said.
Many pundits, including former Turkish international goalkeeper Rüştü Reçber, said the unease in the team was so obvious that it could be seen when the players were celebrating goals but not rushing to the bench.
Croatia, first in Group I, took on Iceland with group supremacy at stake.
Croatia grabbed the lead after 15 minutes through Inter Milan midfielder Marcelo Brozovic, but it was Iceland who took control after that in Zagreb, where the game was played out in front of empty stands after a FIFA stadium ban.
The clash was closed to the public as punishment for the “inappropriate behavior” of the Croatia fans during a World Cup qualifier against Kosovo on Oct. 6.
Iceland, who shocked the football world by beating England 2-1 to reach the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, had revenge on their minds because Croatia deprived them of a first World Cup appearance in a playoff for Brazil 2014.
But despite having plenty of the ball in both halves, Iceland failed to make the crucial breakthrough.
And the home side punished them in injury time, Brozovic again doing the damage against the run of play.
Croatia, now top of the group with 10 points from four games, finished the match with 10 men after Ivan Perisic was sent off at the death.
In the group’s other match, Ukraine edged Finland 1-0 at home.
Turkey is now fourth in the group with five points and will take on Finland in March next year.