Turkey v Wales: Omens good for Gunes' men despite Italy loss

By Sports Desk June 15, 2021

Turkey face Wales in Group A hoping to continue a long streak of avoiding consecutive defeats in a meeting between two sides looking to recover from underwhelming starts to Euro 2020.

The tournament's opening fixture saw Turkey blown away by Italy in Rome, with the hosts breezing to a 3-0 win at the Stadio Olimpico. A day later, Wales were fortunate to claim a 1-1 draw with Switzerland, VAR sparing Rob Page's side as Mario Gavranovic saw a winning goal ruled out for offside.

Given the possibility for the third-placed side to progress, Wednesday's encounter in Baku is not necessarily a must-win for either side.

But both will be eager to make significant improvements from matchday one to boost their hopes of progressing to the last 16, with Turkey – seen by many as dark horses for the tournament – sure to take at least some confidence from their record of avoiding back-to-back losses.

 

Their result against Italy meant Turkey have lost all seven of their opening games at major tournaments. However, they have progressed to the knockouts the last three times they have avoided defeat in their second group-stage match (Euro 2000, World Cup 2002 and Euro 2008).

And Turkey have not lost consecutive matches in all competitions since November 2018. Under current boss Senol Gunes, enjoying his second spell in charge, they have not lost back-to-back games since April 2003.

Wales have progressed from the group in their previous two appearances at a major tournament – the 1958 World Cup and Euro 2016 – but lost their second match in each of those competitions.

Striker Kieffer Moore could be pivotal to Wales avoiding having to deal with such a setback this time around. Moore scored the equaliser against Switzerland, with five of his six international goals coming in competitive fixtures.

Having put the disappointment of the Italy game behind them, Turkey captain Burak Yilmaz says they are ready to justify their pre-tournament status as a team to watch.

"I believe the negative atmosphere from the first game is gone," he said. "We are aware of the mistakes we made. We discussed the reasons among us for the first game. Starting from tomorrow, we will show who we are, we will show our character." 

Turkey will likely still be favourites to defeat Wales, but Page insists his side are confident of putting themselves in a strong position to progress.

"We've got a game plan we want to stick to, one that we think can cause Turkey problems," said Page.

"Turkey probably looked at the fixtures coming into the tournament and saw they had a very difficult opener against the favourites Italy. They'd be looking at our game to get the three points, and we're fully prepared for that.

"But we'll be going for the win, and if you get four points from two games, it sets us up nicely."

Turkey – Cengiz Under

Few players came away with any credit from Turkey's heavy opening defeat but the flashes Under displayed after coming on as a substitute suggest he could feature from the start against Wales.

He was one of just three Turkey players to have a shot and also played a key pass. Under had scored three goals in his last five games prior to the start of the tournament, including efforts in friendlies with Croatia and Russia. Despite a disappointing season on loan at Leicester City, Under has the ability to make a decisive impact.

Wales – Joe Morrell

In a team blessed with the talents of Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey, it was Luton Town midfielder Morrell who was the primary creative influence for Wales against Switzerland.

He played three key passes while it was his cross that provided the assist for Moore to equalise and earn a share of the spoils.

A similarly impressive display could be key to helping Wales take a big step towards qualification.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- This will be the first match between Turkey and Wales at a major tournament. Their last encounter dates back to August 1997 in a World Cup qualifier that produced 10 goals, with Turkey winning 6-4 in Istanbul. Four of Turkey's goals were netted by Hakan Sukur, while current Wales boss Page played for his country that day. 

- Wales last beat Turkey 40 years ago, in March 1981, courtesy of a goal from Carl Harris in a World Cup qualifier in Ankara (0-1). Gunes was in goal that day for the home side.

- Wales have only failed to score in one of their seven matches at the European Championship, doing so in their 2-0 semi-final defeat to Portugal in 2016.

- Turkey had just three shots in their first match against Italy, their fewest ever in a European Championship match, while they failed to attempt a single shot on target for a second time in their last three matches in the tournament.

- Thirty-three per cent of Wales' nine shots in their opening game against Switzerland were taken by Kieffer Moore, while 33 per cent of them were created by Joe Morrell – with the Dragons' leveller being scored by Moore from a Morrell assist.

Related items

  • Australian Open: Medvedev embracing the pressure but says Nadal remains the favourite Australian Open: Medvedev embracing the pressure but says Nadal remains the favourite

    Daniil Medvedev is happy to be considered the favourite for the Australian Open title but says Rafael Nadal remains the man to beat at Melbourne Park.

    World number two Medvedev is now the top-seeded player in the competition after Novak Djokovic was deported from Australia on Sunday.

    Competing in his first grand slam since winning the US Open in September, Medvedev made a solid start by seeing off Henri Laaksonen 6-1 6-4 7-6 (7-3) on Tuesday.

    The Russian, who lost last year's Australian Open final to Djokovic in straight sets, will now take on either Liam Broady or Nick Kyrgios in round two.

    He is aiming to become the first man in the Open Era to follow up his maiden Grand Slam title with another in his next major appearance.

    Medvedev is not shying away from the spotlight, but the 25-year-old considers Nadal the real favourite for the trophy because of his incredible record.

    "I like pressure but last year I started well here in Australia in the ATP Cup and I managed to be in the final here," he said.

    "The tournaments in Australia are always really important for me. I like to play in Australia on hard courts. I want to do better here than I did last year but it's not going to be easy.

    "But I always say whoever is the highest ranked is the favourite so this time I will go with Rafa because he has 20 Grand Slams."

    The 20 major singles titles won by Nadal is equal to Djokovic and Roger Federer, who is also absent in Melbourne due to injury, as the most by a men's player.

    Just one of those titles have come at the Australian Open, however, with the Spaniard – who beat Marcos Giron in his opening match on Monday – going all the way in 2009.

    Nadal and Medvedev are in opposite sides of the draw and are on course to meet in the final, but many challengers await between now and then.

    That path became a little clearer on Tuesday as world number eight Casper Ruud withdrew from the tournament due to an injured ankle.

    Ruud had been due to face Alex Molcan in the first round, but his place will be taken by lucky loser Roman Safiullin.

  • Stafford ends playoff hoodoo as Rams blow out Cardinals Stafford ends playoff hoodoo as Rams blow out Cardinals

    Matthew Stafford celebrated the end of his long wait for an NFL playoff win as the Los Angeles Rams sealed a stress-free victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Monday.

    The quarterback produced an immaculate performance as the Rams won 34-11 at SoFi Stadium, the venue for this year's Super Bowl, in the first match to be played on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

    Stafford was 0-3 in playoff games over 12 years with the Detroit Lions but threw touchdown passes for Odell Beckham Jr. and Cooper Kupp while running for another to ensure there would be no disappointment this time.

    His reward is a showdown with Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Florida next Sunday in the divisional round. The Rams were one of just three teams to beat the reigning champions in the regular season – a 34-24 win back in Week 3.

    A 52-yard drive in the first quarter ended with Stafford finding OBJ with a four-yard pass for the opening TD of the game, the latter's first in the postseason.

    It marked what would prove to be a display of efficiency from Stafford, who threw 13 of 17 passes – his lowest of the season – for 202 yards but did not commit a single turnover.

    Von Miller – playing in his first postseason game since being MVP of Super Bowl 50 – sacked Kyler Murray as the Cardinals failed to respond, and in the first drive of the second quarter, Stafford found Beckham again for a 31-yard gain that led to his chance to run in touchdown number two.

    Things went from bad to worse for the Cardinals as a Rams punt ended on the Arizona 1, and Murray thought he finally had a first down when he threw to AJ Green, but Nick Scott tackled the ball away from him to what was eventually called an incomplete pass. On the next play, Murray was panicked into rushing his throw from his own endzone, leading to a pick six as David Long intercepted and ran in for the TD.

    It took until more than halfway through the second quarter for the Cardinals to get a first down as they fell 21-0 behind at halftime, and they were not back on the scoreboard until a little over four minutes remained in the third quarter.

    Having surrendered a 17-0 lead over the San Francisco 49ers last week, the Rams were determined to avoid a repeat, Beckham making NFL history as the first player in the postseason to finish with 30-yard receptions and completions in the same game.

    Stafford's seven-yard pass let Kupp, who finished with a team-high five catches for 61 yards, quell any fears of a late Arizona response.

  • Australian Open: Kvitova crashes out at Melbourne Park Australian Open: Kvitova crashes out at Melbourne Park

    Petra Kvitova was convincingly beaten to bow out of the Australian Open in straight sets in the first round on Tuesday.

    The Czech 20th seed, a finalist in Melbourne in 2019, was crushed 6-2 6-2 by Romanian Sorana Cirstea on John Cain Arena.

    Kvitova produced a staggering 39 unforced errors with just seven winners to bow out in 71 minutes.

    It continued a mixed record at Melbourne Park for the two-time Wimbledon champion.

    Kvitova has now bowed out of a grand slam in the first round 11 times – with four of those coming at the Australian Open.

    Cirstea will face either Misaki Doi or Kristina Kucova in this year's second round.

    The 31-year-old also beat Kvitova at the Australian Open last year – in the second round.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.