Turkey’s World Cup chances weakened after loss to Ukraine
KHARKIVThe Turkish national team capitulated 2-0 to Ukraine late on Sept. 2, in a 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier Group I match, weakening its chances to make it to the world’s most prestigious international tournament.
New coach Mircea Lusescu, who took over from Fatih Terim after a series of off-the-pitch controversies, was furious after the game, claiming that Ukraine’s first goal was offside and that the ball had left the field before the second.
Still, he admitted that Ukraine “is the team that is playing best in the group.”
”It was not easy but we should have controlled the game,” he said, signaling that he will make a major reshuffle in the lineup before the Croatia matchup on Sept. 6.
“Our chances continue. We have to win all three remaining games,” Lusescu added.
Both goals at the Metalist Stadium came from Andrey Yarmolenko in the 7th and 42nd minutes.
Years of speculation about a big move to one of Europe’s top leagues finally came to an end for Yarmolenko this summer, with the 27-year-old now plying his trade for Borussia Dortmund in the German Bundesliga and UEFA Champions League.
“He has been wanting to play in a top European league for a long time now,” said former Ukraine international Andrey Voronin.
“Although he hasn’t managed to get that move for the last few years, he can finally show what he is made of on the world stage.” He may yet get a chance to shine on the biggest stage of all.
Group I was already one of the most exciting and closely-contested groups in qualifying, but the situation escalated even further on Saturday.
Ukraine’s victory against Turkey temporarily secured it top spot after in-form Iceland suffered a shock 1-0 defeat to a Finland side that had only collected one point from the campaign before the day’s action, with Alexander Ring scoring the winning goal after just eight minutes in Tampere with a superb free-kick finish.
Nevertheless, a draw in Zagreb against bottom-of-the-table Kosovo will be enough for Croatia to climb back into pole position after their match scheduled for Sept. 2 was postponed for due to bad weather. The game was level at 0-0 when the players went off.
Elsewhere, Spain took a giant step towards qualifying for the World Cup as Isco’s double and Alvaro Morata’s late strike swept aside Italy 3-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sept. 2.
Isco was the star performer in a brilliant team display from the hosts as his early free-kick and long-range effort before half-time put Spain in control before Morata came off the bench to rub salt in Italian wounds.
“Isco was magnificent, like the rest of his teammates,” said Spain coach Julen Lopetegui.
“He opened the game up for us with his two goals.”
Italy’s first defeat in a qualifier since 2006 means Spain now lead Group G of European qualifying by three points with just three games remaining and can also count on a far superior goal difference.
The Azzurri are now likely to face a tricky two-legged playoff in November to book their place in Russia.
“We’ve seen a match in which there was a huge difference in the quality and physique of the sides,” admitted Italy boss Giampiero Ventura.
England manager Gareth Southgate, meanwhile, will count on Harry Kane to continue his goalscoring form against Slovakia on Sept. 4 as his side close in on qualification.
Kane belied his August goal drought with Tottenham Hotspur to score twice as England won 4-0 against Malta on Friday, taking his tally to five goals in his last three international appearances.
If England prevail against Slovakia it will need just two points from their last two games to secure automatic qualification and Southgate says the firepower in his squad gives him plenty of options.
“It has been brilliant to look at the bench and be able to bring on Marcus [Rashford], Danny [Welbeck], Jamie Vardy,” said the England manager, whose team lead Slovakia by two points.
“We’ve got [Jermain] Defoe and [Daniel] Sturridge on there, so we’ve got some real quality and people who can make an impact.
“The bench in the modern game is crucial because the last 15 to 20 minutes are so important.