Turkey in final tune-up before road to World Cup
Turkish forward Burak Yılmaz (R) kisses his jersey after a goal. Coach Abdullah Avcı (inset) talks to his players during a training session of the national team. Hürriyet photo
The Turkish national football team will meet Austria tonight in the final tune-up game before heading into the World Cup qualifiers.
Turkey faces Austria at Ernst Happel Stadium before meeting the Netherlands in its first, and arguably, most difficult game on the road to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
After missing out on the 2010 World Cup and the Euro 2012, Turkey has no desire to watch another tournament from the sidelines. Following the disappointment of being beaten by Croatia 3-0 on aggregate in the Euro 2012 playoffs, Turkey parted ways with their coach Guus Hiddink, and assigned Abdullah Avcı to the post.
Avcı, who was the longest-serving coach in Turkish top-flight football before leaving Istanbul BB, came with a more aggressive attack approach that led to promising early results.
The 48-year-old, who had previously coached the Under-17 national football team from 2004 to 2005, made his debut as the Turkish coach against Slovakia on February 29, 2012. Leaving that 2-1 defeat behind, this summer’s European tour proved a positive start for Avcı, currently having his first experience at the senior level of international football.
A 3-1 win over Georgia on May 24 was a good start, but hardly guaranteed Turkey would be successful in its 2014 World Cup qualifiers. The second game on May 26 raised eyebrows as Turkey failed to hold on to its lead over Finland and lost 3-2. The game was called off in the final minutes due to fans invading the pitch.
Turkey then bounced back with a 2-0 win over Bulgaria on May 29. The best was yet to come with wins over two Euro 2012 teams. First, a 3-1 victory over Portugal at La Luz, then a 2-0 win over co-host Ukraine, gave Turkey hope that it would do well in the qualifiers.
Avcı, who says he favors a fluid passing and attacking style of football, is satisfied with the effort his players have put in so far.
“I am happy with what I have seen so far,” Avcı said. “I have seen players responded well to my game philosophy. I have seen players reflecting on the pitch what we have done in training.”
Turkey met Austria twice in the European Football Championship qualifiers. Turkey won its first game 2-0 at the Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium in Istanbul, and was held to a goalless draw in the second meeting between the two teams. However, missing a last-minute penalty proved to be crucial for Turkey, who entered the playoff draws as an unseeded team.
Turkey will be without goalkeeper Volkan Demirel and Gökhan Gönül of Fenerbahçe due to their injuries, leading Beşiktaş goalkeeper Cenk Gönen to be added to the squad. Apart from the two players, Avcı will have a full squad at his service.
The game starts at 9:30 p.m.