Turkey to play Kosovo under shadow of Arda Turan saga
ISTANBULThe Turkish national football team will play a crucial 2018 World Cup qualifying stage game at Kosovo on June 11, but the competition on the pitch is the least of coach Fatih Terim’s problems.
The national team has been involved in a scandal since June 5, when team captain and Barcelona player Arda Turan verbally and physically assaulted a veteran journalist on the team plane.
Turan was kicked out of the squad after the incident, and hours later he announced his retirement from international football in a press conference boycotted by sports reporters.
He did not offer an apology at the press conference for his attack on 62-year-old journalist Bilal Meşe, instead saying “I feel light as a bird.”
He later told daily Hürriyet that he did not apologize to coach Terim, saying Terim had “thrown the players to the media.”
The scandal surrounding Turan is just the most recent trouble for Terim’s squad, which has been under fire especially since the failure at the Euro 2016 Football Championships in France last summer.
Turkey won the ticket to the tournament with a last-second goal in its final qualifying match but failed to advance from its group with one win and two losses. The failure came amid a bitter debate over the promised bonuses to the team. Media reports at the time suggested that captain Turan and his teammates were not happy with the amount of bonuses, which were around 300,000 euros per player. Turan denied the reports as “fake news” to justify his attack on Meşe this week.
Turkey’s situation is not too bright on the pitch either. Terim’s men are in fourth place in Group I with eight points in five games and five points behind leader Croatia, which is followed by Iceland at 10.
The group leaders will directly earn a spot in the World Cup finals in Russia, while eight runners-up with the best record against the teams in first, third, fourth and fifth in their groups proceed to playoffs to decide the remaining four European berths.
If Turkey drops points against Kosovo, which has yet to win its first game as an UEFA member, it will need another miracle similar to last year’s to pursue its chance of a spot in Russia with upcoming games at Ukraine and at home against Croatia and Iceland.
Also this weekend, Scotland will host England in Glasgow in a Group F clash.
Harry Kane believes the years have done nothing to dull the rivalry between England and Scotland.
Beginning with their first encounter in November 1872, the neighbors faced off almost every year until 1984, when the British Home Championship was abolished.
Their meetings since have been scarce and with Scotland having not qualified for a major tournament since the 1998 World Cup, a gulf has emerged between the teams.
“I still think it means something. It’s like maybe playing for your club in derbies, it’s the same sort of feelings. We definitely know how much it means to everyone and it means a lot to us as well,” said England striker Kane.
“We were all England fans growing up and we all know what it meant. Just because we play for the team, it doesn’t mean that’s changed. It’s important that we go out there with that mindset. We know it’s going to be a very passionate game and we hope we are going to send our fans home happy,” he added.
The June 10 clash at Hampden Park arrives with the two teams in familiar situations.
England is four points clear atop Group F and closing in on a place in Russia, while Scotland, six points back in fourth place, faces a scrap just to secure a playoff berth.