Turkey faces Ukraine test on road to World Cup

Turkey faces Ukraine test on road to World Cup

Turkey faces Ukraine test on road to World Cup

AA Photo

The Turkish international football team hosts Ukraine in the Central Anatolian province of Konya on Oct. 6 in its bid to advance to the 2018 World Cup in qualification Group I.
All three games in the group ended in draws on the first matchday, with Turkey grabbing one point with a 1-1 draw in Croatia amid ongoing debates over coach Fatih Terim’s squad selection. 

Following a dreadful performance at the Euro 2016 finals in France in June, Terim made significant changes to the Turkish squad for the country’s World Cup campaign. His decision to drop many regulars ahead of the Croatia match - including Barcelona star Arda Turan, Galatasaray midfielder Selçuk İnan, and striker Burak Yılmaz - was met with harsh criticism, but Terim has refused to recall the same names to the squad for back-to-back games against Ukraine and Iceland.

Arda Turan, who has scored five goals and made four assists this season so far with the Spanish giant, tried to calm down the tension in his latest remarks.

“My purpose is always to help Turkish football,” he told Radyospor on Oct. 4.

“I promise to do everything in my power to serve that purpose. If they open their arms then I will come, if they don’t then I won’t,” Turan added.

Another source of debate regarding the national team is coach Terim’s contract. The coach’s little-publicized deal with the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) was made public by Sporx on Oct. 4. According to the contract, Terim is paid 3.5 million euros ($3.9 million) a year, which makes him among the best earning national coaches in Europe.

The contract also states that Terim will continue to receive his remaining salary in the event that the TFF cancels his five-year contract, signed in November 2013. The payments will stop if Terim signs a contract with another national team or club.

With questions over his squad and lucrative contract lingering, the pressure will be on Terim when his men kick off against Ukraine at 9:45 p.m. local time.

Also in Group I, Kosovo will be out to make history against Ukraine. 

The tiny Balkan country’s competitive debut last month ended in a creditable 1-1 draw away to Finland, with Valon Berisha scoring Kosovo’s maiden World Cup goal.

It was a remarkable result given that FIFA only gave its approval for a host of players to represent the Balkan outfit on the day of the game. 

Now Albert Bunjaki’s side plays its first “home” game, although the team will face Croatia in the Albanian city of Shkoder because the facilities in Pristina, the Kosovan capital, are not yet deemed up to the standards of FIFA. 

In Reykjavik, Euro 2016’s surprise package Iceland hosts Finland. Expectations for the team are higher after the tiny nation reached quarterfinals in France - with its fans wooing millions along the way - but coach Heimir Hallgrimsson is cautious.
“Nobody is underestimating Iceland any more, we have a good future,” he said, adding that the competition in the group will be tough.
“It’s the toughest group, the only one with four teams who played at the Euro finals,” said Hallgrimsson. “The benefit is that it’s so even.”