Turkey, Netherlands in final clash for Euro 2016 spot
DHA PhotoTurkey and the Netherlands will meet for a crucial rendezvous in the Central Anatolian province of Konya on Sept. 6 after both teams lost points late on Sept. 3 in their bid to qualify for the Euro 2016 finals in France.
Turkish midfielder Selçuk İlhan scored for Turkey in the 77th minute against Latvia, but the visiting side’s Valerijs Sabala stole a share of the points for the Baltic nation with an equalizer in stoppage time.
Turkish coach Fatih Terim pinned part of the blame for the draw on Swedish referee Stefan Johansson, noting that a goal by striker Burak Yılmaz was correctly ruled out for offside.
“We’re in this position because of two Swedes,” noting a previous call by another Swedish referee that went against the Turks during an earlier match with the Czech Republic.
Star midfielder Arda Turan, however, pointed to Turkey’s deficiencies for the reverse. “If you miss that many chances, it’s not a lack of luck, it’s a lack of ability,” Arda said after the match.
In the first match in October 2014, Turkey drew 1-1 with Latvia in a critical away game. Latvia has stymied Turkey on other occasions as well, having notably knocked them out in a 2003 playoff to qualify for its only major tournament to date, Euro 2004.
Despite the failure to collect three points, Turkey gained one point on the Oranje, which fell 1-0 to surprise packet Iceland. Turkey is fourth in the group with nine points, one point behind the Dutch with three matches remaining.
A Gylfi Sigurdsson penalty on 51 minutes ensured that Iceland stay top of Group A with 18 points – eight ahead of World Cup bronze medalists the Netherlands.
The stuttering Dutch campaign had already cost Guus Hiddink his job and new coach Danny Blind had a baptism of fire in Amsterdam.
With their backs to the wall, the Dutch desperately needed a win but were lucky not to be trailing after seven minutes with Jon Dadi Bodvarson missing in front of goal.
The Dutch lost captain Arjen Robben to an apparent groin injury after half an hour, forcing Blind to bring on Luciano Narsingh.
And things began to unravel for the hosts when defender Bruno Martins Indi was sent off on 33 minutes for appearing to hit striker Kolbeinn Sigthorsson in the neck.
The nightmare continued after the break with Swansea midfielder Sigurdsson converting a penalty awarded after Gregory van der Wiel brought down Birkir Bjarnason.
Blind, the former iconic captain of Dutch giants Ajax, had said he wanted to “breathe new life” into the national side, but time is now ticking on the 1988 European champions’ campaign.
The Netherlands is six points behind the Czech Republic for the second automatic qualification place after the Czechs beat Kazakhstan 2-1 thanks to a late Milan Skoda brace on 74 and 86 minutes.
The Czech Republic travels to Latvia while Iceland will bid to seal their first Euro qualification at home against Kazakhstan. Even if Iceland, which brought 1 percent of its total population to view the match in Amsterdam – 3,000 – were to slip at home to the Central Asian minnows, they would still qualifying for their first-ever major championship if Turkey and the Netherlands draw.
In Group B, Gareth Bale put Wales within touching distance of Euro 2016 and a first major tournament appearance for 58 years as the Real Madrid’s star’s late goal clinched a 1-0 win over Greek Cyprus.
Bale’s bullet header settled a nervous encounter with just eight minutes remaining in Nicosia and a victory against Israel on Sept. 6 would guarantee their place in next year’s finals.
Wales, who last qualified for a major tournament at the 1958 World Cup, are top of their Group B with 17 points – three points ahead of Belgium who won 3-1 at home against Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Israel, third with 12 points after beating tiny Andorra 4-0, will be looking for a first ever Euro qualification against Wales.
In Group H, Italy took advantage of Croatia’s goalless draw in Azerbaijan to take top spot by beating Malta 1-0 thanks to Southampton striker Graziano Pelle’s 69th-minute goal.
The Azzurri will host Bulgaria on Sept. 6 in a match that could secure their ticket to next summer’s finals in France.