The Turkish national team takes on Georgia in a warm-up match for the upcoming 2014 World Cup qualifiers at Austria’s Salzburg Stadium on Thursday evening.
This will be the second match under new coach Abdullah Avcı, whose surname means “hunter,” since he who took over in November from Dutchman Guus Hiddink following Turkey’s failure to qualify for Euro 2012 that will be kicking off on June 8.
The “hunter” became the “hunted” in Avcı’s debut as national team coach on Feb. 29 after Turkey was beaten 2-1 in a friendly at Bursa’s Atatürk Stadium. It was really a disappointing start for Avcı because the Turks lost to a team that also did not qualify for Euro 2012. The new coach, naturally, would not like to lose two in a row.
Turkey missed out on the 2010 World Cup extravaganza in South Africa and will also be conspicuously missing from Euro 2012. This makes Avcı’s job all the more difficult because Turkey, the 2002 World Cup and Euro 2008 semifinalist, cannot afford to be absent from three great football tournaments in a row.
Avcı called many players to the Austria camp as he is still experimenting in a bid to form his dream national team. And the players are:
Volkan Demirel, Gökhan Gönül, Bekir İrtegün, Emre Belözoğlu, Caner Erkin (Fenerbahçe); Rüştü Reçber, Cenk Gönen, Egemen Korkmaz, İsmail Köybaşı, Mustafa Pektemek (Beşiktaş); Semih Kaya, Selçuk İnan, Engin Baytar (Galatasaray); Tolga Zengin, Olcan Adın, Burak Yılmaz (Trabzonspor); Serdar Aziz (Bursaspor); Alper Potuk (Eskişehirspor); Serdar Kurtuluş (Gaziantepspor); Soner Aydoğdu (Gençlerbirliği); Hasan Ali Kaldırım (Kayserispor); Hamit Altıntop, Nuri Şahin (Real Madrid); Ömer Toprak (Bayer Leverkusen); Arda Turan (Atletico Madrid); Gökhan Töre (Hamburg); Tunay Torun (Hertha Berlin); Sercan Sararer (Greuther Fürth); Mehmet Ekici (Werder Bremen); Sinan Bolat (Standard Liege); Umut Bulut (Toulouse); Mehmet Topal (Valencia).
However, goalkeepers Volkan Demirel and Sinan Bolat as well as Galatasaray winger Engin Baytar and 21-year-old Eskişehirspor defender Alper Potuk missed training sessions this week and are doubtful on Thursday.
Injuries notwithstanding, the “hunter” remains undaunted. “I have confidence in my players,” Avcı said.
“The three matches we are going to play in Salzburg [including Thursday’s against Georgia] are very important for us and also for our opponents. Thereafter, Euro 2012 hosts Ukraine and Poland will play warm-up matches against us before the official tournament kicks off,” he noted.
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Turkey vs. Georgia