Young and restless Turkey seeks Finland win to dream on
ANTALYAThe Turkish national team will hunt a dream when it hosts Finland in a World Cup 2018 qualification Group I game on March 24, with coach Fatih Terim drafting in a younger squad with an eye to the future.
The experienced coach has shown confidence in Emre Mor, who has scored one Bundesliga goal for Borussia Dortmund this season, along with Enes Ünal, a 19-year-old who has shined this season at Twente Enschede, where he plays on loan from Manchester City.
Gençlerbirliği’s Serdar Gürler has also “thanked coach Terim a lot” for his debut invitation to the national team, but it might be difficult for the 25-year-old midfielder to break into the starting XI.
Barcelona star Arda Turan’s return to the squad following a public dispute with the coach also provides some hope to Turkey’s qualifying dreams.
Turkey’s campaign has been a disappointment so far, with the “Milli Takım” picking up just five points in its first four games. As such, it must beat Finland, which has collected just one point to keep any hopes of the World Cup in Russia alive.
Iceland, which is located in third, one spot and two points ahead of Turkey, travels to bottom side Kosovo.
“We will start 2017 with a win,” said a Terim article in a booklet prepared for the game, which will take place in the Mediterranean resort of Antalya at 8 p.m. local time.
“At the start of the qualification stage, we set a goal to end Turkey’s 15-year thirst for a World Cup. Despite difficulties, we have not given up our belief. This is why we say today that we are targeting the 2018 World Cup, and we will not digress from this goal,” he said.
The top clash in the group will be between table-toppers Croatia and visitors Ukraine on March 24 in Zagreb.
Both are unbeaten after four games and victory for 10-point leader Croatia would give it a comfortable buffer.
In the Group D qualifying campaign, meanwhile, Gareth Bale’s Wales hopes to recapture the spirit of Euro 2016 when it attempts to revive its flagging World Cup qualifying campaign against Ireland in Dublin on March 24.
Having stunned Europe by reaching the semi-finals of last year’s European Championship in France, Wales trails leader Ireland by four points after four games in UEFA qualifying Group D.
But while Ireland are blighted by injuries and suspensions, Wales are at full strength, with Real Madrid talisman Bale fit and firing following a spell on the sidelines with an ankle injury.
Podolski seals goodbye with winner
In the shadow of the qualifying campaigns, Galatasaray striker Lukas Podolski admitted his Germany farewell could not have been scripted better after netting a superb winner in a 1-0 friendly win over England in Dortmund on March 22.
It was only fitting that the Galatasaray forward should claim his 49th goal on his 130th – and final – international appearance in an emotional farewell.
“The way it finished up was like in a film,” said Podolski, who smashed home the winning goal on 69 minutes, then came off to thunderous applause with six minutes left.
“Dear god, or someone else, gave me a strong left foot and I used it tonight. I am proud of the last 13 years,” beamed Podolski, who might join Japan’s Vissel Kobe next season. “It was a great game, a great result and a great way to say goodbye.”
Podolski also scored three goals at the 2006 World Cup and two at the 2010 World Cup.