Sunday, November 18, 2007

Wednesday Will Decide Milli Takim's Fate

Wednesday Will Decide Milli Takim's Fate
By Nathan L. Redd

Turkiye's Milli Takim has put their fans through a rollercoaster of emotions over the last year. From a sure bet to qualify to a nose-diving slump, the Turk fans around the world have been registering high blood pressure following Fatih Terim's group. With only one game remaining, the national team controls its own destiny going into Wednesday's clash with Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Prior to Saturday's game in Oslo, Turkish fans were feeling pessimistic about the team's chances to qualify for EURO 2008. The team had been sinking like a ship since the summer, putting their hopes in jeopardy. Despite the slump, they kept their chances alive going into Saturday's match. After falling behind 1-0 early, two straight goals from Emre Belozoglu and Nihat Kahveci allowed the Milli Takim to discard Norway and move into second place in Group C. After months of ups and downs, the team's fate now rests on Wednesday's result in Turkiye.

Terim told reporters after the match "We conceded an early goal and lost a player [İbrahim Kaş] through injury. Despite those setbacks, my players fought like lions against Norway. Our victory showed which side deserves to qualify for EURO 2008. We have not accomplished our mission yet. We have earned a very important and deserved victory. It is not easy for an average team to get an away against Norway."

Terim's group knows that they've put the fans through a myriad of emotions with their up-and-down play. "I think we like to do it the hard way," joked Terim. "The players are well aware they have another crucial game ahead of them but I get the impression that we are returning to our best form." Ironically, Turkiye put forth a tremendous effort despite having several uncapped players on the roster for the Norway match, including Fenerbahce's Gokhan Gonul. There were also key injuries that led many to believe that Norway would prevail over the Turks, especially with the match being in Oslo. "Some of our key midfielders were not with us due to injury and that put a lot of pressure on Emre Belözoglu, Arda Turan, Mehmet Aurélio and Hamit Altintop's shoulders," he added. "They played selflessly. All of my players were stars."

Terim will have the same roster in place for Wednesday's match, including Fenerbahce's Semih Senturk at the forward position. Galatasaray midfielder Sabrı Sarıoğlu will replace the injured İbrahim Kaş in the squad for the game against Bosnia-Herzegovina in Istanbul. Terim has faced a great deal of criticism in recent months for his decisions and the team's poor play, but a spot in EURO 2008 next summer will buy the coach some time and get the critics off his back. A loss on Wednesday could allow Norway to prevail and put heated pressure on the Turkish Futbol Federation to make a change for Terim.

After Saturday's game, Terim put out a plea for Turk fans to gather on the European side of Istanbul for the match. He knows that the passionate Turk fans can make a huge difference in the intimidation of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and possibly urge the Milli Takim to victory. "I am making a call to all Turkish people," he said. "We want to see real passionate Turkish supporters on Wednesday against Bosnia-Herzegovina. Not just spectators, but real fans."

Greece has already booked their spot in EURO 2008 from Group C. For Turkiye to advance, they need to win on Wednesday to guarantee their spot. If Norway loses to Malta, Turkiye will not need to win their game. A Norway draw with Malta will also assure that Turkiye advances to EURO 2008. Norway and Malta kick off at 20:00 (21:00 in Turkiye; 2 PM EST in the U.S.) on Wednesday.

Turkiye and Bosnia-Herzegovina will kick off at 21:00 (2 PM EST in the U.S.) on Wednesday from Ali Sami Yen Stadium in Istanbul.

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