The pressure is on Iceland against Turkey

ARDA ALAN IŞIK
ISTANBUL
Published 11.06.2019 00:01

After Turkey's sensational victory against France, the dynamics of Group H in the UEFA European Championship Qualifying round has completely changed.

Now, Turkey is the leader of the group with nine points while France and Iceland trail behind with six points apiece. This puts enormous pressure on Iceland to beat Turkey tonight at all costs and I think the shameful scenes at the Keflavik airport stem from this sense of urgency. If Iceland loses this game, their chances of qualifying will be very low, with their next match being against France, the team which beat them 4-0 in March. Thus, Iceland will be taking risks to find opportunities tonight, and that gives the upper hand to Turkey.

The biggest advantage the Turkish national team has is that they will not need to change the plan they used against France. There is certainly no need for manager Şenol Güneş to push his team forward and give Iceland a chance to find opportunities. Rather, Turkey should move on with the same plan I mentioned before the last match - cripple the opponent's core with a dynamic midfield trio and intercept the ball closer to the opponent's penalty box. Turkey's second goal against France came exactly with this method, as French midfielders Paul Pogba and Moussa Sissoko could not resist the pressure from Turkish midfielders Dorukhan Toköz, İrfan Can Kahveci and Mahmut Tekdemir. Iceland is most certainly aware of this issue and they will put more men in the midfield to balance the pressure. Nevertheless, their need for goals makes them vulnerable against simple mistakes and counterattacks, making their job much harder than Turkey. They need to play an organized possession game, which even France could not play against Turkey.

Yes, France is certainly not a possession team, but neither is Iceland. As a frequent opponent of Turkey in recent years, Iceland humiliated Fatih Terim led teams twice with solid counterattacking strategies without pressure. This time they won't be underestimated, and it will be a true test on their behalf.

On the other hand, I think manager Şenol Güneş may try Yusuf Yazıcı or Abdülkadir Ömür in the left wing this time. Against France he chose Kenan Kahraman, a classic striker with not much winger skills. I understand that neither Yazıcı nor Ömür have defensive capabilities, but this time the opponent is more suitable to try players that are a bit more offensive. I think replacing Kahraman with Yazıcı or Ömür would benefit hugely in offense, as their creativity is crucial for creating time and space for Burak Yılmaz and Cengiz Ünder.

Either way, I expect Turkey to put up a real fight against Iceland and return to the country with at least a point. Especially after the inhumane airport treatment, they will surely fight for every opportunity.

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