Turkey takes on leader Romania in key match

Turkey takes on leader Romania in key match

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkey takes on leader Romania in key match

Turkish midfielder Selçuk İnan (L) is congratulated by forward Burak Yılmaz after scoring against Estonia in a 2014 FIFA World Cup qualification group match at the Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium in Istanbul. AA photo

Turkey’s national football team will take on Romania tonight in a crucial battle on the road to the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

Turkey has three points and is sitting three points behind Romania, which tops the Group D after two matches. The Netherlands, the outright favorite to win the group, is second with six points, and follows Romania by one lesser goal difference.

Turkey opened the World Cup qualification campaign against the Netherlands and suffered a 2-0 defeat. The national team then bounced back to crush Estonia 3-0 four days after the loss.

According to the qualification rules, nine group winners directly win berths in the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, and the eight best runners-up will enter a play-off round for the remaining four tickets to the competition. In order to remain in contention for the top two spots, a win over Romania is a must for Turkey.

“Romania is a difficult opponent. We are facing the group leaders,” Coach Abdullah Avcı said in a press conference on Oct. 10. “They are a well-disciplined team playing with patience.”

The coach underlined the importance of winning tonight.

“If we beat Romania, hopefully, then Romania will play against the Netherlands, while we meet Hungary. Then the road will be cleared,” Avcı said. “The Romanian game is our most important test.” Turkey will then meet Hungary in Budapest on Oct. 16.

Avcı has been criticized for relying too heavily on Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe players on his squad. On the 25-man squad that will play against Romania and Hungary, 16 players come from those clubs.
The coach defended himself, saying it is “not his fault.”

Avcı responds to claims of ‘favoritism’

“I have respect for everyone’s opinions, but six of the 10 players I called to the national squad in May were transferred to Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe,” Avcı said. “That is not my fault.”

Avcı was referring to Galatasaray’s signing forwards Burak Yılmaz and Umut Bulut from Trabzonspor and Toulouse, along with midfielder Hamit Altıntop from Real Madrid, while Fenerbahçe signed midfielder Mehmet Topal, defender Egemen Korkmaz and full back Hasan Ali Kaldırım from Valencia, Beşiktaş and Kayserispor respectively.

“When I am selecting the squad, I am not even aware which player is playing for which club,” Avcı said, defending himself against claims of favoritism. “I am behind every single decision I make.”

After coaching the Turkish U-20 squad and Super League club Istanbul BB, Avcı has the biggest task of his career with job of coaching the national team. He took over the post after experienced Dutch Coach Guus Hiddink was sacked following the team’s failure to qualify for the 2012 European Championships.
The team’s first games under Avcı have been promising, especially its victories over Portugal and Ukraine in friendly matches.

Avcı said the team should be aiming to win the Group D. “We have always qualified [for major tournaments] through playoff rounds. Now we need to jump over to the next step,” he said. “We need to win our next two matches and then look ahead.”