Turkey takes on France in Euro 2020 qualifier
Turkish national football team, rejuvenated with new names under the guiding hand of returning coach Şenol Güneş, plays France in the Central Anatolian province of Konya on June 8 as the qualifiers for Euro 2020 resume.
Former Turkey goalkeeper Güneş took the reins of the national team for a second time to pick up a side mired in a slump that saw it fail to qualify for last year’s World Cup in Russia and relegated to the third-tier of the UEFA Nations League.
Since the return of the 67-year-old, who took the Turks to third place in the 2002 World Cup during his first spell in charge, his team has won four from a possible four, including its opening two Euro qualifiers against Albania and Moldova.
Those two wins put Turkey level on points with world champion France, which tops Group H on goal difference after hitting four past both Moldova and Iceland in its first pair of fixtures.
Speaking after a 2-0 friendly victory against Uzbekistan on June 2, Güneş acknowledged that his players’ should up their games to compete with the French.
“This game structure and tempo will not be enough against France,” he said. “The plyers know it, and I know it, hence we will play differently. Against a much better team, we should be able play both the defensive and offensive sides of the game.”
Juventus midfielder Blaise Matuidi noted that Turkey will have the home side advantage.
“It is going to be a match in an atmosphere where you have to be careful because playing there, it’s never easy with the pressure of their support,” he said.
The match will be the first true test for both sides in the group, which so far has offered Didier Deschamps’ star-packed outfit little in the way of resistance.
It will also be key for Güneş, even if his side already looks good to qualify as one of the group’s top two, as he looks to rebuild support for the national team in Turkey after a miserable run under predecessor Mircea Lucescu.
Under the Romanian Turkey won just four times in 17 matches, losing seven times and drawing six.
The omens are in France’s favor even if Deschamps has chosen to pick three new faces for their trip to Turkey and the following away match at minnow Andorra on June 11, with Barcelona center-back Clement Lenglet in contention for his first France cap.
France has won all four of their previous meetings with Turkey, scoring 12 goals and conceding two, with the most recent win coming in June 2009 thanks to a penalty from international outcast Karim Benzema in Lyon.
Elsewhere in Euro 2020 qualifiers, Group J leader Italy looks to continue its own revival after failing to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in 60 years, as it travels to Athens to take on second-placed Greece.
Roberto Mancini’s young side scored eight goals without reply over its two games against Finland and Liechtenstein after an encouraging display in the Nations League.
The qualifiers are taking place while defending champion Portugal seeks to the win the inaugural Nations League on home turf in a final against the Netherlands on June 9.