‘Hunter hunted’ in keeper Rüştü Reçber's testimonial
Turkish players carry veteran goalkeeper Rüstü Reçber just before halftime after he handed over the reins to young Cenk Gönen. (Photo: Today's Zaman)
Played three, won one and lost two. That's coach Abdullah Avcı's report card after Turkey was beaten 3-2 by Finland at the warmup tournament in the Austrian city of Salzburg on Saturday evening.
Rüştü, who made Avcı's starting lineup on Saturday, handed over the reins to clubmate Cenk Gönen in the 40th minute. And echoes of ‘Turkey is proud of you' reverberated across Salzburg Red Bull Arena. The saddest thing is that Turkey was leading the Finns 2-1 when Rüştü left the pitch, and the fact that the Turks were eventually defeated 3-2 is something the keeper will never, ever forget
Avcı, whose surname means “hunter,” became the “hunted” in his debut as national team coach on Feb. 29 when Turkey was beaten 2-1 by tiny Slovakia in a friendly at Bursa's Atatürk Stadium. The Turks, however, rebounded to overcome Georgia in their first match of the Salzburg tournament on Thursday.
But the fact that Saturday's defeat happened in the testimonial for veteran Beşiktaş goalkeeper Rüştü Reçber -- who manned the posts in the 2002 World Cup, when Turkey finished as second runner-up -- meant the 39-year-old bid farewell to the national team on a losing note.
Rüştü, who had been capped a record 120 times, made his debut with Turkey in a match against Iceland on Oct. 10, 1994. He was also the national team's goalkeeper in Euro 1966, Euro 2000 and Euro 2008 -- when the Turks were the losing semifinalists.
Rüştü, who made Avcı's starting lineup on Saturday, handed over the reins to clubmate Cenk Gönen in the 40th minute. And echoes of “Turkey is proud of you” reverberated across Salzburg Red Bull Arena.
The saddest thing is that Turkey was leading the Finns 2-1 when Rüştü left the pitch, and the fact that the Turks were eventually defeated 3-2 is something the keeper will never, ever forget.
Russia-born attacking midfielder Aleksei Alekseyevich Yeryomenko put the Finns 1-0 up in the 19th minute. But Trabzonspor goal-machine Burak Yılmaz scored a brace in the 21st and 55th to give the Turks a 2-1 lead.
However, the Turks could not stop goals by striker Teemu Pukki in the 73rd and Serbia-born midfielder Perparim Hetemaj in the second minute of added time (92nd) and were beaten 3-2.
A spectator ran onto the pitch after the Finnish winning goal and Austrian referee Manuel Schüttengruber blew the final whistle. So the question is: Did the match end normally or was it called off?
Before the game started, Rüştü was honored with a plaque that was presented to him by National Team Committee Chairman Selim Koray.
The 39-year-old thanked everyone. “I said and I am saying, thanks to one and all,” Rüştü noted. “I thank my teammates and my coach for honoring me once again. I served the national team for many years. And those who come behind me [the youths] will continue from where I left off.”
Avcı, naturally, was not happy after the match. “If am to make a general estimate, 20 players have been fielded in the last two matches,” he said.
“Our opponents had three or so chances [and converted them all]. On the positive side, experimenting with 20 players is important. It is difficult not to be happy with the play, but the same cannot be said about the score,” the Turkey coach lamented.
Remaining matches at a glance
21:00 Tuesday, May 29: Turkey vs. Bulgaria
21:45 Saturday, June 2: Portugal vs. Turkey
21:00 Tuesday, June 5: Turkey vs. Ukraine