ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News
The Netherlands' Jeremain Lens challenges Turkey's Selçuk İnan (L) during their 2014 World Cup qualifier in Istanbul. The Dutch won 2-0 with goals from Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder. REUTERS photo
Turkey will be watching the World Cup from home once again, as the red-and-whites blew a chance to advance to a playoff for next year’s tournament in Brazil
by dropping a 2-0 decision at home to a Netherlands side whose third-gear was enough to see off a desperate Turkey.
Seemingly dead and buried in Group D qualification picking up just seven points from its first six matches, Turkey roared back into contention after firing helmsman Abdullah Avcı and giving the reins back to the “emperor,” Fatih Terim, in August. Although three wins on the trot put Turkey into second on goal difference going into tonight’s match, it was a question of too little, too late, especially when faced with an imperious Dutch team that had swatted away its group rivals with embarrassing ease.
The Oranje might have been clad in white, but Turkey was only too aware of their opponents tonight, especially after the already-qualified Dutch pumped eight goals past a hapless Hungary to effectively dash the Magyars’ hopes of making it to Brazil.
Turkish stadia are often eulogized as intimidating places to play as an away team, but the cliché – trotted out whenever a European team comes to town against local Turkish opposition – frequently becomes nothing more than a patronizing scrap of consolation for the home support, especially when the performance of the local Turkish side spectacularly fails to match the frenzy of the supporters.
But while the Dutch were subjected to a cacophony of whistles whenever they gained possession of the ball, it was they that quickly silenced the home support just eight minutes in through a strike by one of the most dangerous men on the pitch, Arjen Robben – even if the goal will ultimately be added to Turkish national team goalkeeper Volkan Demirel’s long catalogue of howlers. The Bayern Munich ace swung a seemingly innocent free kick into the Turkish box, only for the ball to elude everyone and find its way into the back of Volkan’s net.
The Dutch so nearly made it two just moments later, but Robin van Persie – the Netherlands’ newly minted top scorer of all time thanks to a hat-trick in the Oranje’s thrashing of Hungary on the weekend – was adjudged to be offside before his chip beat Volkan.
Perhaps overwhelmed by the overriding importance of the occasion, Turkey struggled to settle, and the Dutch seemed more likely to breach Volkan’s goal once more than the home side looked likely to find the equalizer. When Turkey did find some incision in the final third, the lack of a deft final touch meant that the Crescent and Stars failed to trouble Jasper Cillessen in the Dutch net.
Olcan Adın nearly scored a carbon-copy of Robben’s goal, but his free kick slid off a Dutch defender for a corner. The pressure kicked off a brief period of frenetic activity in the Netherlands’ penalty area, as Turkey won corners, had a possible penalty appeal rejected and saw gilt-edged chances go wanting, all within the space of three minutes just before the half-hour mark.
Turkey displayed more profligacy in front of goal with five minutes left until the break, when Umut Bulut was unable to direct a free header past Cillessen. Galatasaray’s Wesley Sneijder nearly made his club teammate pay moments later, but his powerful volley from outside the area flashed just wide of Volkan’s post instead of becoming the “golazo” of the night.
player, Burak Yılmaz, seemed destined to equalize just before half-time when he was played through on a break, but his agricultural first touch negated a sure scoring opportunity as the ball slid into Cillessen’s arms. It was symptomatic of Burak’s poor season so far, and his next touch on the ball was met by a chorus of boos by home supporters in the Şükrü Saraçoğlu cursing the display of their cross-town rival’s striker. Turkish frustrations
Two players familiar to Turkish fans served to kill off the drama within moments of the restart, as Fener’s Dirk Kuyt fed Sneijder from the edge of the area, where he beat Volkan to the right. Sneijder was restrained in his celebration out of respect for his Turkish club teammates, but his relative lack of emotion also belied the fact that the Netherlands, despite not needing to win, were beginning to look eminently comfortable in dispatching the Turks.
In the end, the Oranje did not need to work like clockwork to see off Turkey, as the home side buzzed about the Dutch final third – all while exuding a sense of futility that suggested they wouldn’t have scored if they had been given another 90 minutes.
For Turkey, it was another chapter in a long line of World Cup qualification disappointments, as few other football-mad countries with a population so large can boast so few appearances at the big dance, having qualified only in 1954 and 2002.
Turkey ultimately ceded second place – and a spot in the playoffs – to Romania, who defeated Estonia 2-0. The loss to the Netherlands also meant Turkey was ultimately consigned to fourth spot in the group after Hungary climbed into third with a narrow 2-0 win over minnows Andorra.