Football

Testing time ahead for Turkey

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Spain is often a slow starters at major tournaments, but after Gerard Pique’s late winner in its Euro 2016 opener, Vicente del Bosque’s men already have the last 16 in sight when they take on Turkey on Friday.

Spain is now unbeaten in 13 European Championship games, but question marks remain over the potency of its attack to give veteran coach del Bosque plenty of selection headaches for its second Group D tie.

One of several new Spain faces making his major Finals debut, Athletic Bilbao striker Aritz Aduriz sat on the bench as Juventus marksman Alvaro Morata spurned a hatful of chances in front of Petr Cech’s goal.

Aduriz replaced Morata for the last 20 minutes, but failed to make a big impact as he sent a speculative overhead kick wide of the target with his best effort.

“The important thing is we won and took the points. That’s crucial for any first game,” Aduriz said.

del Bosque also handed European Championship debuts to Celta Vigo winger Nolito and Bayern Munich midfielder Thiago Alcantara, although neither are guaranteed to start against Turkey.

Despite the new-look Spain, it was the 32-year-old Andres Iniesta who ran the show for Spain, even without his retired long-time partner Xavi at his side, as he made the goal for Pique with an inch-perfect cross.

Turkey needs to at least avoid defeat to keep its dreams alive.

Fatih Terim’s side entered the tournament on a promising vein of form having lost just one of its previous 16 games, but was outclassed in losing 1-0 to Croatia on Sunday.

Previously fancied by many to make it out of a difficult group, their star talents like Arda Turan, Oguzhan Ozyakup and Hakan Calhanoglu were far from their best.

In fact, the Turks were lucky to lose by just a one-goal margin with Croatia captain Darijo Srna and Ivan Perisic both hitting the woodwork.

Against a Spain side seeking to nail down a slot in the knockout stages, Turkey has an uphill battle to salvage its prospects of progressing in France.

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2020 4:50:00 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/football/Testing-time-ahead-for-Turkey/article14426023.ece

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