Turkey starts World Cup qualifying campaign
Turkish national football team members are seen during a training session. Turkey will be looking to make a good start to its 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign in Group D when it plays the Netherlands in Amsterdam tonight. AA photoTurkey will be looking to make a fresh start to its World Cup Group D qualifying campaign when it plays the Netherlands in Amsterdam tonight.
The game will be the first official one for coach Abdullah Avcı and his coaching staff, who are hoping to forget the bad memories of a failed Euro 2012 qualifying campaign.
The biggest advantage against the Netherlands will be the “new spirit,” according to assistant coach Okan Buruk.
“Friday’s game is very important for both sides,” Buruk told reporters at a press conference on Sept. 5. Both teams have renewed their squads, Buruk said, adding that Turkey has prepared in the best way possible.
“We have analyzed the Netherlands, they have a unique style of play,” Buruk said. “Turkey also has its own way, we play patiently but it doesn’t mean that we will be on the defensive for the whole game. But it all comes to what the players do in the game, you can be very well prepared but some mistakes during the match are hard to compensate for.”
The assistant coach noted that Turkey’s target is to finish atop Group D.
Turkey, which finished third at the 2002 World Cup, sees the game against group favorite Netherlands a critical one.
“Netherlands is the group’s strongest team,” Turkish Football Federation (TFF) Chairman Yıldırım Demirören said. “We’ll play our first and last matches against them. Thus we have an advantageous schedule. I am hopeful that our team will qualify,” he said.
Turkish players playing abroad will have to assume much of the responsibility if Turkey is to achieve that target.
Atletico Madrid midfielders Arda Turan and Emre Belözoğlu, along with Nuri Şahin of Liverpool, will be key for the purpose.
Şahin told reporters that he was sure Turkey will be in the 2014 World Cup finals.
“We have come a long way to become a team,” he said. “I’m very hopeful for the Netherlands game.”
Şahin said there is competition in the squad to be one of the regulars, and that rivalry has a positive effect on the team. “We all want to play, and each and every one of us will do his best if given the chance.”
While Turkey is depending on team spirit for the tough away game, the Netherlands has to get rid of the sour taste of losing all three group matches at Euro 2012 and a friendly to Belgium as it tries to extend its 10-match winning streak in World Cup qualifiers. Louis van Gaal, who replaced Bert van Marwijk at the helm of the Oranje in July, has already rung the changes, omitting Nigel de Jong, Gregory van der Wiel, Vurnon Anita, Khalid Boulahrouz, Rafael Van der Vaart and Ibrahim Afellay from his squad. The Dutch coach has suggested that the players in question – who all moved to new clubs over the summer – might not be completely focused on the crucial encounter with Turkey, and has placed his faith in stalwarts such as Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, who has been confirmed as the team’s first-choice striker. Jordy Clasie and Leroy Fer, 21 and 22 years old respectively, are expected to join forces with playmaker Wesley Sneijder in the Dutch midfield.
“I told some players already on Monday [Sept. 3] that they are playing, because for them it’s better they can focus on Friday [Sept. 7],” Van Gaal told reporters.
The Dutch, who lost 4-2 to neighboring Belgium in a friendly last month, are unbeaten in 22 World Cup qualifying matches.
Their last defeat was in 2001 when Jason McAteer sealed Ireland’s win over Van Gaal’s side, a defeat which kept them out the 2002 World Cup, the only time the Netherlands has missed the tournament since 1986.
Strikers Klaas Jan Huntelaar and Robin van Persie are both in good goal-scoring form but Van Gaal said Huntelaar was first choice.
“I consider Robin only as central striker according to the profiles I use,” said Van Gaal. “But that can change after one match, the team is more important than who is our striker. Who will play is decided by the moment.”