Turkey need win or draw against Iceland to reach Euro 16 playoffs

Published October 13th, 2015 - 01:08 GMT
Turkey face tough task against group leader Iceland
Turkey face tough task against group leader Iceland

Having defeated Czech Republic in its penultimate Group A qualifying match, all Turkey must do to secure a berth in the Euro 16 playoffs is draw or win against group leader Iceland at home on Tuesday, which will effectively nullify whatever Netherlands does with the Czechs.

Netherlands is two points behind after losing to the Turks in their last encounter. By virtue of a better head-to-head record, the Turks would make the playoffs ahead of the Dutch in the event of a tie. Both of their opponents, Czech Republic and Iceland, are guaranteed their tickets already.

This means that Turkey's fate is in its own hands. If the Turks lose, they leave themselves at the mercy of the Dutch result. And while Czech Republic defeated the Dutch in their last encounter 2-1, it was a narrow win at home and the Dutch were not as desperate. Nor were the Czechs so comfortable. While they do not want to lose twice in a row, this match is not critical to their campaign, giving hungry Netherlands the edge.

The good news for Turkey is that Iceland is in the same situation. The match means little more than first or second place in the group, which amounts to a better seed going into the tournament next summer.

And while Turkey was pummeled 3-0 when the sides first met in matchday one, Iceland was dominating then, but has slowed down considerably in recent matches. The group leader drew both Kazakhstan and Latvia in Iceland. It should not be impossible for the Turks to draw on their own home soil.

Rally the Turks

But history is not on Turkey's side. In their eight previous matches, the Turks have won just one match, drawn two and lost five to Iceland.

Forward Jon Dadi Bödvarsson, Swansea midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson and Nantes forward Kolbeinn Sigthórsson scored in the previous match. It was 1-0 when Ömer Toprak was sent off the pitch, greatly denting Turkey's chances for a comeback. The Turks must keep an eye on these three on Tuesday.

They might also watch Ólafur Ingi Skulason, a defender who plays for Ankara side Gençlerbirliği.

In his own team, coach Fatih Terim has to worry about the fitness of Burak Yılmaz, who has been out for a month with a hamstring injury. Burak missed the Czech Republic match, but even if he recovers in time for Iceland, he will not be as fit is he normally would be.

It was his teammate, Galatasaray midfielder Selçuk İnan who kept his head to score the penalty against the Czechs. Bayer Leverkusen's Hakan Çalhanoğlu was also busy in Turkey's last match. The 21-year-old Germany-born midfielder took several shots, finally recording a goal at the end.

Turkey's captain Arda Turan made the assist. Turks everywhere are hoping that players such as these will do even more against Iceland. It would be a considerable disappointment for Turkey to miss out on its third consecutive European Championship after coming so close. And it would also be a huge confidence boost to qualify at the expense of international powerhouse Netherlands.

However, current events in Turkey will certainly affect the atmosphere. Terim stated that after the bombing in Ankara the same morning, the only reason his team took to the pitch was to avoid punishment from UEFA. Similarly, the Iceland match also feels a bit too soon.

The match kicks off at 9:45 p.m. at Konya's Torku Arena.

State of play on road to Euro 2016

Qualified: Host France. Group A: Iceland, Czech Republic; Group B: Belgium, Wales; Group C: Spain; Group D: Germany, Poland; Group E: England, Switzerland; Group F: Northern Ireland, Romania; Group G: Austria; Group H: Italy; Group I: Portugal, Albania.

Still in contention for automatic spot: Group C: Slovakia and Ukraine; Group G: Russia and Sweden; Group H: Norway and Croatia.

Playoff places: Group A: Turkey or Netherlands; Group B: Bosnia, Israel or Greek Cyprus; Group C: Slovakia or Ukraine; Group D: Ireland; Group E: Slovenia or Estonia; Group F: Hungary; Group G: Russia or Sweden; Group H: Norway or Croatia; Group I: Denmark.

The third-placed side with the best record against the first, second, fourth and fifth teams in their group also qualify automatically. The eight other third-placed teams go into the two-legged playoffs in November.

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