Turkey sets eyes on World Cup berth
The country is currently second in Group G, level on points with third-placed Norway, while Montenegro is down in fourth and will finish in that position regardless of what happens on the final matchday.
Turkey will kick off the match on the back of a thumping 6-0 win over Gibraltar on Nov. 13, with the host proving to be far too strong for its opponent in Istanbul.
The success moved Turkey above Norway, which was held to a goalless draw by Latvia on Nov. 13, into second position in the group, and a win over Montenegro will be enough to secure either the top or the second spot in the group.
Kerem Aktürkoğlu opened the scoring in the 11th minute against Gibraltar, and Halil Dervişoğlu scored twice inside four minutes to make it 3-0 at halftime.
Merih Demiral, Serdar Dursun and Mert Müldür completed the scoring after the break.
With the Netherlands, following a 2-2 draw at Montenegro on Nov. 13, sitting atop with a two-point lead over its opponents, an automatic spot at next year’s World Cup is still open for Stefan Kuntz’s side, but it will need Holland to drop points against Norway in what is a huge game in Rotterdam.
The match will be played behind closed doors amid a new partial coronavirus lockdown in the Netherlands.
Even a loss could keep Turkey in the second spot if Norway loses in Rotterdam.
The last time Turkey and Montenegro played was on Sept. 1, when the home side went ahead thanks to goals by Cengiz Ünder and Yusuf Yazıcı, but conceded twice to be held to a 2-2 draw.
The second-place team goes into a 12-team playoff that includes runners-up in the 10 groups plus two group winners from the UEFA Nations League.
Among Turkey’s possible opponents, if it qualifies for the playoffs, will be Portugal, as Cristiano Ronaldo’s hopes of playing in a record-equaling fifth World Cup hang in the balance after Serbia stunned Portugal 2-1 in Lisbon on Nov. 14 to qualify for the 2022 World Cup.
Ronaldo already holds the record of playing in five European Championships and looked well on course for another milestone as Portugal stormed out of the blocks to open the scoring after just two minutes through Renato Sanches.
However, Serbia bounced back to dominate the remainder of the first half and deservedly levelled when Dusan Tadic’s strike squeezed in off the post after Dusan Vlahovic had hit the woodwork.
Ronaldo was kept quiet as another chance to score his 800th career goal came and went.
Instead it was Aleksandar Mitrovic who grabbed the vital goal as stoppage time approached.
“We must apologize to the Portuguese but my team will be at the World Cup, that’s guaranteed,” said defiant Portugal coach Fernando Santos.
“We will have to prepare well to beat our opponents in March and to get to Qatar. But I always trust my players.”