Goal shy Turkey unable to capitalize on dominance
Turkey came into their qualification opener with a level of confidence after a recent 3-1 win against Greece. This had been their only second international of 1988 (the previous one had been a 1-0 loss in Hungary in March), and the comprehensive win last month meant there was an air of expectation in the Istanbul autumn sky. Iceland, on the other hand, had already opened their qualification campaign, as they had held the Soviet Union to a 1-1 draw at home six weeks earlier. To their bad fortune, manager Held had a few injury worries ahead of the trip to the Bosporus.
Turkey team news
It is unlikely that manager Tınaz Tırpan would have wanted to alter things too much since the win against Greece. However, as it turned out, he would be starting the qualification without two of the players who had been in the opening select against their neighbours: experienced central midfielder Metin and wide player Erdal. Neither were among the 16 in the matchday squad. Apart from those two, the rest of the nine starters from their last fixture would be selected from kick-off yet again.
There appeared to be a worryingly low average number of international appearances throughout the squad, but this was something which the Turkish seemed to be used to. Throughout the decade there had often been changes from one matchday squad to another, and success had been difficult to come about. We will leave to speculation whether this was a result of a lack of selection consistency or other factors. Fact was nevertheless that Turkey, perhaps the qualification for the ’84 European Championships apart, had had a bleak decade, and it would be necessary to start the new campaign well in order to maintain a level of optimism for as long as possible. Turkish football fans were known throughout the continent for their fervour and passion, and their importance as the ‘twelwth man’ should not be underestimated. No visiting team would relish coming to Istanbul.
The two players drafted into the starting line-up as replacements for Metin and Erdal were Gökhan (Keskin) and Savaş, both from Istanbul based clubs. In fact, only three players among the eleven hailed from clubs from outside the country’s bustling metropolis of a city.
Among the five substitutes were two possible debutants in second choice goalkeeper Engin and young midfielder Mustafa, a player who had moved with his family to the Netherlands at an early age. He had come through the ranks at Ajax, though the attacking midfielder would only once feature in the league for the famous Amsterdam club before moving to PEC Zwolle. Prior to the start of the 1988/89 season, he had moved to his home country to feature for Sarıyer in the top flight. On the bench was also Turkey’s most capped player among the 16 in İsmail from Galatasaray. With his 27 previous caps, he was 12 ahead of starting striker Tanju in this respect. Throughout the starting eleven, there was only an average of 7,54 caps per player.
Iceland team news
Since their creditable 1-1 draw at home to the Soviet Union in the group opener, Iceland manager Sigfried Held had had some injury worries to manage. For the trip to Turkey, Iceland’s West German boss would have to make do without the whole of the midfield three which had featured six weeks earlier, as well as his goalkeeper. He would also have to cope withouth goal scorer Grétarsson, so Held was forced into making no less than five changes for their first away trip of the qualification campaign.
Iceland had been through two friendlies since the match against the USSR. They had lost heavily at home to Hungary (3-0) on Sep 21, and then a week later they had gone down to the only goal of the game in Copenhagen against Denmark. The defeat against the Hungarians must have been a great disappointment after the sturdy display against the Soviets. They had lined up with nine of the starters from the 1-1 qualification opener (only foreign based Sigurvinsson and Guðjohnsen had been missing), while a further two from the match against the USSR had been unavailable for Denmark in midfielders Ormslev and ‘Siggi’ Jónsson. Ormslev had gone off ten minutes from the end against the Hungarians, had then featured in Fram’s final league match in their title winning campaign, but had been withdrawn, along with Halldór Áskelsson, for the squad which travelled to Denmark.
Goalkeeper Bjarni Sigurðsson had only recently been through an operation on his broken nose, an injury he most likely had sustained whilst in action for his club side. He had withdrawn during Iceland’s loss away to Denmark in that September friendly, but this had been due to migraine. He had been rated touch and go until the announcement of the matchday squad. As it turned out, he would not be risked, and second choice ‘keeper Friðriksson would get the nod. Drafted in as his back-up was 29 year old Hreiðarsson from Vikingur, with just a single cap to his name.
Whereas the back five was still intact, the midfield reshuffle since the Soviet game was total: Coming into Jónsson’s holding role was Ómar Torfason, who by no means was a stranger to the international climate, having previously won 33 caps. He had also held this position in Denmark. Jónsson had most likely injured himself in Sheffield Wednesday’s match against Aston Villa on October 1, as he had come off during their 1-0 win. In front of Torfason in midfield were Margeirsson, normally a forward, and Arnþórsson, both strong runners and with capable physique. Sigurvinsson’s absence was a major one. He had featured for his Stuttgart club in a UEFA cup first round second leg match only the night before. Sigurvinsson was otherwise known for often being absent from friendlies, almost exclusively featuring in qualifiers at international level, though on this occasion the VFB Stuttgart captain had had a game the night before and therefore not travelled.
With Grétarsson an absence up top, he too was in action for his club side (Luzern and Grétarsson lost 3-1 in a home league game against Young Boys at the same time as the match in Istanbul), the role as Guðjohnsen’s partner had gone to fellow Belgium based striker Guðmundur Torfason, who had come on as a substitute in their opening qualifier. Another injured player was the left-sided Viðar Þorkelsson, who had been among the substitutes against the Soviet Union. The other four substitutes from that tie were starters here.
The Iceland squad had met up in London prior to departure Istanbul. Without a host of key players, they would have been modestly optimistic about their chances in a difficult away fixture. Their domestic league had finished on September 24. After the game in Turkey, they would depart for West Germany, where they would be camped ahead of the trip to face East Germany the following Wednesday.
A 44 year old Israelian in Ovadia Ben Itzhak had been appointed as chief official for this fixture. This was his fourth international, and he had indeed been in charge of both of these countries during the last year. Ben Itzhak had overseen the Turkish Olympic select’s 0-0 draw at home to Norway in November ’87, from where only goalkeeper Fatih remained, as well as Iceland’s 3-0 defeat in Budapest against Hungary in May. No less than eight of the Icelandic starters here in Istanbul had been in their line-up for kick-off in the Hungarian capital, and so were known to Mr Ben Itzhak.
Perhaps understandably, this was not the most frequent of fixtures on the UEFA agenda. They had met in the qualification ahead of the 1982 Spain World Cup, but other than that they had not come head to head at all. Iceland had indeed won both those encounters: 3-1 in Izmir and 2-0 in Reykjavik. The only remaining player from their last clash in Turkey was Iceland skipper Atli Eðvaldsson. When they had next met in Reykjavik, big defender Sævar Jónsson among today’s selectees had also been present.
|12 Fatih Uraz||27||Samsunspor|
|2 Recep Çetin||sub 58′||23||Beşiktaş|
|3 Semih Yuvakuran||25||Galatasaray|
|4 Cüneyt Tanman (c)||32||Galatasaray|
|5 Mücahit Yalçıntaş||31′||27||Konyaspor|
|6 Gökhan Keskin||22||Beşiktaş|
|7 Oğuz Çetin||25||Fenerbahçe|
|8 Rıdvan Dilmen||26||Fenerbahçe|
|9 Ünal Karaman||22||Malatyaspor|
|10 Tanju Çolak||61′||24||Galatasaray|
|11 Savaş Koç||25||Galatasaray|
|x Engin İpekoğlu||27||Sakaryaspor|
|13 İsmail Demiriz||26||Galatasaray|
|14 Mustafa Yücedağ||22||Sarıyer|
|15 Zeki Önatlı||19||Beşiktaş|
|17 Feyyaz Uçar||on 58′||24||Beşiktaş|
|1 Friðrik Friðriksson||24||B1909 Odense|
|2 Gunnar Gíslaslon||52′||27||Moss|
|3 Atli Eðvaldsson (c)||32||Valur|
|4 Pétur Arnþórsson||sub 77′||23||Fram|
|5 Guðni Bergsson||23||Valur|
|6 Sævar Jónsson||30||Valur|
|7 Ragnar Margeirsson||26||ÍBK|
|8 Ólafur Þórðarson||72′||23||Akranes|
|9 Arnór Guðjohnsen||27||Anderlecht|
|10 Guðmundur Torfason||26||Genk|
|11 Ómar Torfason||29||Fram|
|12 Guðmundur Hreiðarsson||29||Víkingur|
|13 Þorvaldur Örlygsson||22||KA|
|14 Ágúst Már Jónsson||29||KR|
|15 Halldór Áskelsson||on 77′||23||Í.F. Þór|
|16 Arnljótur Davíðsson||20||Fram|
Scenically situated almost on the shore of the Bosporus, about two miles away from the vast 15 July Martyrs Bridge separating European and Asian Istanbul, lay İnönü Stadyumu, home of Beşiktaş, one of the metropolis’ three major clubs. Tonight the stadium, practically overlooking the impressive Dolmabahçe Palace, a dear remnant from the Ottoman Empire, would hopefully unite not just Beşiktaş, Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe fans, but supporters throughout Turkey as the nation’s football team would embark on its journey towards Italia ’90. The ground was clad in a festive mood before kick-off, as more than 25 000 people had turned up. Whatever few Icelandic fans were inside the stadium had been engulfed in the masses supporting the hosts, but they could seek comfort in the fact that their footballing heroes had stood up well to their previous task. Despite both countries being part of the lower ranked layer on the UEFA scene, one would’ve been left with the feeling that Turkey were a footballing adventure waiting to happen. The major clubs had numerous and passionate support, and if transfered across to the international stage, Turkey could quickly turn into something of a force.
Visitors are without some major performers
Iceland had arrived in Istanbul after a brief gathering in London, where their FA had assessed the player situation. Manager Sigfried Held had been able to call upon all of their stars, both internationally and domestically, for their previous qualifier, but here, robbed of some truly big names, he was a good few players short of his ideal line-up. Perhaps was striker Sigurður Grétarsson the biggest miss. He had played an active part in the 1-1 draw against the Soviet Union. Not only had he scored the Icelandic goal; he had contributed with some impressive first line of defence duties. The 26 year old Swiss based forward had excelled in his pressing up front along with strike partner Arnór Guðjohnsen, one year his senior and a player regularly featuring for major Brussels based club Anderlecht. Tonight, though, Guðjohnsen had alongside him another Belgium stationed forward in Genk’s Guðmundur Torfason. The duo would set the ball rolling through their kick-off.
Not only had the two strikers been instrumental in harrying the Soviet players in Reykjavik, but the midfield three had also played a major part. Possibly the biggest name missing from the islanders’ starting eleven on this occasion was Ásgeir Sigurvinsson. His West German Bundesliga club Stuttgart were sitting atop the league, and participating in the UEFA cup, they had been in Hungary the previous night trying to defend a 2-0 lead from the home fixture. As team captain, the 33 year old was as big a player for Stuttgart as he was for his country, and he had participated in the West Germans’ successful plight in Tatabánya, where the home side had triumphed 2-1 on the night, but libero Karl Allgöwer’s goal from the penalty spot had proved decisive in seeing Stuttgart through 3-2 on aggregate. With Sigurvinsson ineligible and Pétur Ormslev and Sigurður Jónsson most likely injured, midfield responsibility had gone to Ómar Torfason, Ragnar Margeirsson and Pétur Arnþórsson. The former sat in the deep, central role, wanting to shield his three central defenders. The strong Margeirsson, usually deployed as a forward, was to Torfason’s advanced right and so filling directly in for Ormslev, whereas the eager Arnþórsson had taken Sigurvinsson’s position as the left-orientated among the three. Combined, the trio probably had approximately the same strengths as the previous midfield three, though without Sigurvinsson’s vast experience and strength in distribution. It was also likely that Torfason was a step down in quality from ‘Siggi’ Jónsson.
Strong atmosphere in the ground
Turkey immediately showed their intent in the wake of the kick-off, and within the first 20 seconds, both full-backs had been in or around the visitors’ penalty area, attempting to rush the visiting players into mistakes. To Iceland, the surroundings would’ve been quite hostile, and this supporter passion was something which the hosts would have to gather energy from. And so it seemed. The Turkish players wanted to keep the ball rolling, eagerly retrieving the ball in order to resume play quickly whenever there had been a stop. The opening sequences showed grit and determination from the home side, something which would be necessary in order to wrestle a grip on proceedings against what was probably a stronger physically equipped opponent.
The İnönü was fitted with running tracks, something which possibly gave the visitors some respite, as Iceland would not have felt that the vociferous home support was breathing right down their necks. However, the lack of proximity to play was made up for through sheer dedication in support, and the decibel levels throughout the ground were impressive. Sure, the masses did seem to help drive their team forward, as Turkey intended to lay siege inside the visitors’ half of the pitch.
The home side came out in a 4-4-2. The full-backs were both fairly young and energetic, though it was clear that left-back Semih would be playing a far greater attacking role than his counterpart Recep. There seemed to be a reason for that, as Recep, appearing in his home stadium as one of two Beşiktaş players from kick-off, had Savaş ahead of him along the right hand side of the pitch. The latter, winning only his second cap, would keep width along his flank, something which Ünal on the opposite side was much less prone to, thus paving way for Semih to stride forward whenever the opportunity would arise.
In the centre of the Turkish defence sat captain Cüneyt, the only player in the side the ‘wrong’ age of 30. The Galatasaray man, 32, was winning his tenth cap, and he would prove to be instrumental in building from the back. Cüneyt wished to be on the ball; he demanded the ball. He would often be seen striding forward ball at feet, leaving more defensive duties to the taller Mücahit, one of only three players not based in Istanbul.
In midfield, the home side had the combative Gökhan, the other Beşiktaş player in their eleven, sitting at the back. He appeared without shin pads from the word ‘go’, having rolled his socks down. He was trailing the somewhat more advanced Oğuz, who seemed to be one of two wishing to be on the ball in the centre of the pitch. That was if Cüneyt did not advance from the back. In addition to Oğuz, there was the originally left-sided Ünal also often appearing in more central areas, and both were quite capable players in possession. Ünal was far from unwilling to leave his wide position, exposing territory for left-back Semih to run into. This particular bit of tactics appeared to work a treat, as Turkey would look more enterprising along this side compared to opposite. Savaş was the man designated for the right flank role, and as another one who was winning only his second cap, he was of less individual capability than some of his team mates. Savaş’ main strengths instead appeared to be off the ball, and he would seek to engage in play with both right-back Recep and drifting forward Rıdvan. The latter, clearly the more agile and mobile among the front two, would time and again come into right-sided attacking territory, and look to exploit whatever gaps there were between Iceland’s left-sided centre-back (captain Eðvaldsson) and left-back (Gíslason). In the centre, notorious goalscorer Tanju, who had topped the Turkish top flight’s goal charts for the past three seasons, sat right on the shoulders of Iceland’s central defenders. Tanju had notched a goal seven days earlier, as Galatasaray had impressively knocked Rapid Vienna out of the European Cup through winning the first round second leg meeting 2-0 on home soil (Cüneyt had netted the other).
Iceland to make greater international experience count?
In these surroundings, it was necessary for Iceland to draw on all their experience and guile. Throughout the side, despite the absence of several of their main performers, they were equipped with international know-how, and they had to let the fact that their players still averaged 31 caps between them play into their favour. The Turkey eleven, on the other hand, averaged only 7,5 per head, and there was no player in the Iceland select with less than 16 internationals (goalkeeper Friðriksson) to his name. For the hosts, six players were in single appearance figures, and no player more experienced at this level than Tanju, who was winning his 15th cap, a tally even below that of the least capped Iceland player. Whereas four of their starters had been 30 or older against the Soviet Union, only two had yet passed this milestone among the Istanbul eleven.
They were central defenders Jónsson and Eðvaldsson, and both were formerly with clubs on the continent. Here they were featuring either side of libero Bergsson, and combined they made up a solid defensive unit. In particular captain Eðvaldsson would be a vital cog tonight with his eight years of experience from West German football.
The first half progresses according to almost set patterns: The home side remain in possession and are industrious throughout the pitch, rarely giving the visitors a moment’s peace. Iceland need to be, and are, disciplined, as they never lose their defensive shape, where the trio at the back is so vital. Especially Jónsson and Eðvaldsson are having busy afternoons during the first 20 minutes, fending off Turkish waves of attack. They both need to pay attention to Rıdvan, who relishes to run into channels. Aerially, Iceland are superior to the hosts, so it is hardly a surprise that Turkey seek to keep the ball along the deck. They have good movement through their team, and also midfielder Oğuz is spotted making a couple of clever runs off the ball. With Tanju so immobile in the centre, this is needed in order to cause some unrest in the Icelandic defence, yet little comes off their superiority in possession so far.
Iceland focus on counter-attacking
Iceland, on the other hand, rely on counters. They were lacking in players who could hold on to the ball high up the pitch, as in particular their midfield seemed to be short of this ability. Naturally, they were looking to Guðjohnsen to maintain possession and bring others into play, and with his movability and wish to come deep and participate in build-ups, the Anderlecht striker seemed to be their most influental player inside the home side’s half. Guðmundur Torfason, the other Iceland striker on the night, left more of a burly impression, clearly relishing a battle with Turkey’s central defenders, and probably first and foremost with the tall Mücahit. He did possess some ability in distribution, did Torfason, but he appeared to be little of a goal threat. In trying to catch the hosts on the break, there was even the odd forward foray by right-back Þórðarson, whose somewhat greater level of forward admittance compared to left-back Gíslason would see him appear along the flank deep inside the Turkish half. Not often, but a couple of times employing Semih in a defensive capacity. Iceland’s strikers did not receive an awful lot of support from their midfield inside the home side’s half, and in particular Arnþórsson seemed to struggle in his close control so far. The Iceland number 4 had also sent a low shot from 22 yards wide to the right having been set up by Guðjohnsen, and perhaps was the hosts’ grip on the game about to lose some of its force now 25 minutes in?
Hosts show counter-attacking abilities of their own
Approaching the half hour mark, Iceland have indeed been able to keep possession at times, and certainly more than they had been allowed to do earlier in the half. Yet, they never abandoned their defensive shape, never gave in to the temptation of releasing several men forward simultaneously. They were well aware that Turkey had quick and nimble players going forward, and so would not risk being exposed. Ómar Torfason had a vital role in the centre of the park, where he was hardly allowed to feature inside the opposing half. He challenged well and looked to pick up opponents wishing to make clever runs off the ball, as at times seen by both Ünal and Oğuz. However, on a rare occasion of exposure, libero Bergsson had to commit a foul on Rıdvan just outside his own penalty area as Turkey were seen breaking at pace. This gave them a fine shooting opportunity, and the chance to really put goalkeeper Friðriksson to the test, something which they had so far been unable to do. The increasingly impressive Ünal had been instrumental in their quick transition from defence to attack, as he had brought the ball forward and released Rıdvan, who in turn had played a one-two with Tanju before being felled by Bergsson. Whereas Ünal had showed some delicate close control and clever running off the ball, on the opposite end of the scale had been Tanju, whose influence on proceedings thus far had been almost none. He was given the duty to dispatch the free-kick, but his effort from the left edge of the penalty area D went straight into the defensive wall, where Gíslason had moved somewhat towards the taker before the shot had come. Eventually, the ball would find its way to Gökhan, who 35 yards out decided to shoot right-footed, only to see his effort clear the bar by a yard, Friðriksson always in control of the rising shot.
The referee was having a fine game so far, yet it was hardly a match which had been difficult to officiate. On 31 minutes, he plays the advantage rule as Iceland are on the attack through midfielder Arnþórsson, who had seized on a momentary lapse of concentration by central defender Mücahit; the Turkey number 5 had treaded on the ball. As Arnþórsson tries to burst past Mücahit, the defender grabs hold of him, though he is yet unable to let Arnþórsson have a go at goal. Fatih, featuring in an unusually numbered 12 green goalkeeping jersey, makes a save, though he gives a rebound, which Cüneyt attempts to run clear, only to take the ball across the byline for a corner kick. Upon this, the Israelian official returns to Mücahit and issues a yellow card for having tugged Arnþórsson back. This is exactly what you wish to see from any referee. Later, Ben Itzhak would also eventually punish Turkey left-back Semih for foul throw-in at the third time of asking. Semih had escaped twice, but when it had happened again, the man in the middle had taken action and instead awarded the throw-in to Iceland.
Five minutes from the half-time break, and having coped fairly well with another bout of dominance from the hosts, Iceland again go on the break and release Guðjohnsen along the left. With Recep unable to close him down properly, Guðjohnsen is given time and space to swing a deep left-footed cross into the area, and he does so, finding the head of Margeirsson who has made a fine run into the box. The midfielder heads the ball down towards the inside bottom of the right hand post, and Fatih has to dive low to divert the ball away for a corner with his fingertips. The header had come from ten yards out and to the right inside the area, but Margeirsson had been able to get sufficient power behind it to work Fatih. It had probably been the biggest chance so far in the game. The resulting corner from Gíslason sees Eðvaldsson wrestled to the ground by Mücahit, but to no retribution from the referee. The Iceland captain does not bother to protest.
Late first half penalty drama
Perhaps did Eðvaldsson regret not having made a stronger claim for a penalty down the other end when he is unfortunate to concede one inside his own box in first half stoppage time. Turkey play a ball into the area from the right after a quick throw-in by Rıdvan, and when Cüneyt releases Savaş in direction of the byline, the right-sided player gets caught in a tangle between Bergsson and Eðvaldsson, where the latter was the one to make greater contact. The referee does not hesitate in awarding Turkey a penalty. There’s no great protests from the visitors, a sign that the official had made the correct decision. For the third time during the first half, Turkey had wanted to exploit gaps between left-sided central defender Eðvaldsson and left-back Gíslason. However, it would prove a bad idea to give Tanju, low on confidence after a very poor first half showing, the responsibility of tucking the penalty home, as his relatively weak effort is palmed away by Friðriksson’s raised right hand as the ‘keeper dives to his left. Going into the dressing room a late goal to the good could’ve made a world of difference, but as it were the teams came in goalless.
Despite no goals and not a whole lot of opportunities created, it had been a fine first half with few breaks in play. The game had flowed well, and it had been played in good spirits among both sets of players. Turkey would have been disappointed not to have gone in front through that injury time penalty, and how would this affect them at the start of the second period? Iceland, for sure, would’ve been pleased with how they had coped to fend off Turkey’s pressure, and it seemed very unlikely that their manager would make any tactical changes ahead of the second 45. Both teams reappear with identical line-ups to those which had started the match. Turkey get the second half going.
The Turkish forwards
What had been behind this bleak first half showing by Turkish goal ace Tanju? The 24 year old striker had finished the 1987/88 season with 39 league goals to his name in his first season with a top club, as he had moved from Samsunspor to Galatasaray. The popular Istanbul club had won the league, and Tanju Çolak had averaged more than a goal per game. He had won the domestic golden boot three successive seasons, but had yet to score in other than friendlies at national team level, and two of his four goals in 15 earlier internationals had come from the penalty spot. Tonight he had missed that late first half spot kick having been well watched by the Iceland defenders during the first 45. Was he burdened by the pressure that the nation had laid on his shoulders? Early in the second half he has two involvements which perhaps could spur him on to better things. First he wins a header inside the visitors’ area to head down for Rıdvan after a long ball up from Recep, and though Tanju’s strike partner comes too wide to pose a goal threat, this had been better from the 24 year old. Seconds later he moves wisely towards the far post when Semih swings a free-kick over from the left hand channel. Tanju appears to aim a header towards goal, but the ball strikes the back of Eðvaldsson and ends up in Friðriksson’s arms. At last he is showing some appetite, though!
There had been quite a common thread throughout the home team that they had shown plenty of endeavour during the first half. They had been busy and willing, but for some players the desire to be involved had occasionally trumped their ability. Such had been the case with right-sided midfielder Savaş, who had given the ball away a few times through some wasteful passing. Another player whose effort and commitment appeared faultless was Tanju’s forward partner Rıdvan. The Fenerbahçe man was making his 14th appearance in the Turkey jersey, and he had only a sole goal to his name. This had come in their most recent outing, the 3-1 win against Greece. During the first half, Rıdvan’s most prominent feature had been his running into the channels; primarily towards the right, but even along the opposite side. He had not been particularly efficient, but at least there had never been a lack of trying. Six minutes into the second half he has picked the ball up inside the Icelandic half and was darting towards the penalty area, until he was brought down by Ómar Torfason. The referee had duly awarded a free-kick just over 20 yards out, and whilst the visitors had been protesting against the Israelian official’s decision, Oğuz had spotted Rıdvan making a few steps forward to get away from attention. This quick, clever bit of thinking from Turkey’s central midfielder, where he had fed his Fenerbahçe team mate, saw Rıdvan race into the area, and though he had been tracked, he had been able to get a shot away. Unfortunately for both him and the nation, it had gone well over Friðriksson’s crossbar. Turkey, though, were showing signs of having their patience tell: They were so far in the second half continuously taking the game to the visitors.
The second booking of the game will go to one of the visitors’ players. Iceland had won a free-kick in a left-sided midfield position, though Mr Ben Itzhak decided that left-back Gíslason had been delaying too long before getting the ball rolling again, and so produced a yellow card for the 27 year old. Yes, it could be argued that Iceland were possibly trying to take some time over set-piece situations, but Gíslason did not appear to have been deliberate in any time wasting. The referee’s decision to book him had perhaps been aided by the hasty reaction from the partizan home crowd, who were loudly jeering the visiting players, and especially if the Iceland men had taken what they thought was a few seconds too long over any set-piece.
High discipline levels among the visitors
Iceland’s players continued to be disciplined; their solid defence so far stood their ground. They had not allowed for a whole lot from the Turkish attack force, and with more than ten minutes gone of the second half, they were beginning to look somewhat comfortable. Not that they would ever get complacent; they knew they were probably individually inferior. A moment of switching off could be enough for the home side to find a way through. Yet, Bergsson gave a calm display at the heart of their defence. He was a few years younger than his two fellow central defenders, but showed a maturity beyond his years in his impeccable positioning and strong aerial play. He had fine support from both Sævar Jónsson and captain Eðvaldsson, and as a trio they had been able to fend off the hosts. Their full-backs were also focusing greatly on their defensive duties, and so there was not much space for Turkey to take advantage of in the final third of the pitch. In addition, the blue shirted midfielders continued their off the ball work. Iceland were often looking for a quick route towards the home goal, and if it were not a high ball up from the back for Guðmundur Torfason, then it was usually a ball along the ground for Guðjohnsen to cause chaos with his neat close control and incessant running.
Turkey manager Tınaz goes bold just shy of the hour mark when he opts to bring right-back Recep off for a third striker: Feyyaz becomes the third Beşiktaş player to participate, though having just replaced a team mate, there’s still just two of them on the pitch at the same time. What would this switch do to their formation, and could they lay more heavy siege on the stubborn visitors? With Iceland offering not a whole lot attack-wise, Tınaz would have felt it affordable to sacrifice one of his defenders. Less than a minute after coming on, Feyyaz would seize on some lack of reorganization among the visitors as he picked up a forward ball by Oğuz midway inside Iceland’s half. The substitute raced forward and picked a low shot which went straight into the arms of Friðriksson. Instead of shooting, he could perhaps have played Rıdvan through the centre, but any effort on target would be appreciated in order to raise home spirits among fans and players alike.
Right on the hour mark there’s a bit of rising temperature as Tanju pushes Bergsson to the ground inside the visitors’ penalty area after the whistle has gone. The referee had, rightly, awarded Turkey a free-kick in the left-handed channel, almost by the byline, as Ünal had attempted to wriggle free from Þórðarson and deliever a cross. The visiting libero had intervened, and upon committing the foul against Ünal, Bergsson had appeared to step on the left-sided player’s ankle when retreating towards his penalty area. This had clearly angered Tanju, who saw fit to push Bergsson to the ground. This prompted a third yellow card of the afternoon, as the referee only saw the push, and not Bergsson’s alledged stamp on Ünal. Replays indicated that Tanju had a case.
Almost out of the blue, and certainly against the run of play, Iceland move in front through striker Guðmundur Torfason’s goal on 63 minutes. He gets just enough power on his low finish after some tireless work by right-back Þórðarson almost down by the corner flag. Turkey had seemed to be in control after Jónsson’s ball forward with both Ünal and Cüneyt in proximity, but somehow they both allowed Þórðarson to get away with the ball. Spotting Torfason in the centre, Þórðarson played a perfect low ball in, which just escaped Mücahit, and first time the Genk striker hit his right-footed effort under Fatih, who got a touch, but not firmly enough to keep the ball out, inside the right hand post. Stunned, the home players had to accept that they had just fallen a goal behind. Torfason, who had so far done little else than winning a couple of headers, could register his fourth international goal.
Tınaz tweaking his formation
Turkey had, as expected, appeared to change their formation after replacing Recep with Feyyaz. The substitute slotted in up front as a direct strike partner for Tanju, at times even moving slightly towards the left, whereas Rıdvan would continue to drift mainly into right-sided channels. Recep had been the outright right-back, a position which now would more or less be occupied by Savaş. Not that the latter would carry a whole lot of defensive responsibility, as Iceland would obviously continue to sit deep after moving in front. Savaş was the Turkish outlet along the right inside Iceland’s half, though all afternoon his stray passing would come back to haunt him. Furthermore, he never seemed to strike much of an understanding with Rıdvan ahead of him, and so the switch in formation did not make any immediate impact for the hosts.
In central defence, Mücahit continued to be the player with the greater defensive responsibility, as Cüneyt still prefered to assist in building from the back, and so would often wander into Iceland’s half. The home skipper had probably been a more important attacking contributor during the first half than in the opening 20 minutes of the second half, but he did show composure when in control, and would distribute well. Oğuz had so often been the midfielder with the greater passing responsibility, but Ünal had also sought towards central areas from his original role along the left hand side. Since the substitution, however, it appeared clear that Ünal had been given further central responsibilities, and so far the sole Malatyaspor player in the Turkish selection had probably been their best player. He had showed some truly fine close control, and he had often been quite direct in his on the ball running. This had caused some level of distress to the visitors. After the introduction of Feyyaz as a third striker, and with Turkey more or less in a 4-3-3 formation, Gökhan was sweeping behind Oğuz and Ünal in midfield.
Around the 65 minute mark, Iceland’s tireless midfielder Arnþórsson goes to the ground after blocking an Ünal shot and is in need of attention from the medical staff. He remains on the ground for more than a minute, and it seems that Sigfried Held must make his first substitution. He prepares Halldór Áskelsson, a 23 year old player who, like Margeirsson, probably had been operating just as much in a forward position as he had in midfield. If the substitution would come about, would it be so that Áskelsson was brought on as a direct replacement for Arnþórsson in midfield? Iceland’s number 4 would soon resume play having been assisted to the touchline by the physio team.
Turkey exert greater pressure
Having been carried across the touchline to continue the treatment off the pitch, Arnþórsson soon returns to play. However, it could be that he is incapable of resuming the same level of intensity in his off the ball pressing, as this is when the hosts will truly pin Iceland back and create some hairy moments for the visitors. Turkey are able to maintain sustained spells of pressure against the Iceland rear guard, and on 68 minutes Oğuz is in possession outside the crowded Icelandic penalty area, contemplating his options. Like fellow midfielder Ünal, Oğuz has shown some fine touches all afternoon, and he is not in a rush to get rid of the ball. He looks up and spots Tanju having made a run off the ball slightly to the right of centre inside the visitors’ area. The Fenerbahçe playmaker treads a short ball through, though somewhat off balance Tanju must slide to connect with the pass. He nevertheless makes Friðriksson work with a low shot, and it is a big chance for the striker to get on the scoresheet. The ‘keeper manages to divert the ball out for a right wing corner with his legs.
Turkey’s dominance by now is almost total, and Iceland are unable to get out of their own half. After another wave of Turkish attack, Gíslason almost desperately heads the ball out for a second right wing corner in relatively quick succession. Among the home forwards, Tanju had shown some early promise in the second half, only to go hiding again like during most of the first half. The introduction of Feyyaz directly alongside him had also probably not yielded quite what Tınaz had wanted. Now, though, from this most recent flag kick, there’s immediate danger as Rıdvan’s floated ball from the right, after Savaş’ short set-piece, almost finds Feyyaz who dives in to connect with his head. With the substitute a fraction away from getting to the ball, it finds its way through to Tanju just behind him, though lying on the ground the striker can only poke the ball goalwards, only for it to be cleared on the goal line by Gíslason. Another big chance goes begging for Turkey. Should they be able to maintain this level of pressure, though, it seemed almost inevitable that the Iceland resistance would be breached.
Second Iceland booking
Ólafur Þórðarson becomes the fourth name in the referee’s book of sins as he wrestles Ünal to the ground in the channel outside his own penalty area. The pair has had some fine tussles all afternoon, though it had never got nasty. This challenge comes about probably just as much through Þórðarson being exhausted as anything else, and Ünal has no ill feelings in the aftermath.
Having been on the back foot from wave after wave of Turkish attacks for almost ten minutes, Iceland finally succumb to the equalizer. The goal had a strong feeling of inevitability about it, and it was a true peach from Ünal, possibly the best player on the pitch. Iceland had only moments earlier made two rushed attempts of clearing the ball, by midfielders Arnþórsson (still on the pitch) and Margeirsson, but in their growing sense of desperation it only came boomeranging back to them. When Ünal decides to set pace on the ball from central left, advancing past feeble challenges from Þórðarson and Margeirsson, he feeds Oğuz 20 yards out. The midfielder then spots Tanju inside the penalty area, and plays him in through a short pass. Tanju does well in taking a touch to steady himself for a pop at goal, though his effort’s blocked by Gíslason. However, the ball ricochets into the air, and Ünal, who has seen his earlier momentum carry him into the area, follows up to volley a first time effort diagonally into the back of the net with Friðriksson unable to get a touch. It was an equalizer which had been coming.
Iceland could’ve moved in front again
Perhaps should Held have replaced midfielder Arnþórsson immediately after his earlier injury, because without his intensity in pressure, Turkey had been able to keep Iceland pinned back deep inside their own half. This had eventually brought the equalizer, and less than two minutes later, Arnþórsson was taken off for Áskelsson. Unfortunately, our tape from the game does not include the final 12 and a half minutes, as it stops just after 32 minutes of the second half. There is still enough evidence, however, to suggest that Áskelsson had come on directly in Arnþórsson’s midfield position, and some of the last action we’ll see is when the substitute dispossesses Gökhan inside the centre circle. The hosts’ holding midfielder had been dallying on the ball after having received a square headed pass from Mücahit, and as Áskelsson had punished him, the ball eventually broke for Guðmundur Torfason. The striker made a return pass for Áskelsson, who had continued his run deep into Turkish territory, and he connected with a low left-footed effort first time from inside the area as Fatih had come rushing out of his goal to narrow the angle. The ball crept just a yard wide of the upright. It had been a major opportunity for Iceland to regain their lead.
Tape prematurely ends!
Less than a minute later, we’re out of tape! Statistics suggest there will be no further cautions. However, whether or not Turkey would maintain their strong grip on proceedings shall remain unknown. The final score is 1-1.
Iceland arrive depleted and set up defensively, most likely looking for a draw. They would need to snatch something from any counter-attacking opportunity they could muster, as they would have to soak up Turkish dominance for large chunks of the game. The hosts are unable to break Iceland down before the break, although they come mightily close as they are awarded a penalty in first half injury time. Tanju, who’s cut a beleagured figure until then, sees his 12 yard effort saved by Friðriksson, and the half-time scoreline is 0-0. The second half sees more home dominance, but despite adding a third striker into the mix when Feyyaz replaces right-back Recep, they can not breach the visitors. Instead, it is Iceland who move in front through Guðmundur Torfason’s crisp first time finish. Eventually, Turkey will keep Iceland pinned back deep inside their own half, and there are some tired legs in the visitors’ camp by the time that the impressive Ünal volleys home a delicious equalizer. Despite a scare by Iceland through substitute Áskelsson late on, the visitors hold on to claim a precious away point. Turkey would have been disappointed.
1 Fatih 6.7
is not put to the test a lot. Difficult task to stop Iceland’s goal as it came from relatively close range; got a hand to it, but not enough
2 Recep 6.8
until he is sacrificed for the benefit of a more attacking formation, Recep has a reliable, unspectacular performance: restricted attacking contribution, rarely troubled defensively
(17 Feyyaz 6.4
comes on to add to forward numbers, but makes little difference. Mainly seen centre or centre left)
3 Semih 7.1
a willing customer coming forward, though his crosses were too often lacking in precision
4 Cüneyt 7.1
sought some responsibility in building from the back; often seen carrying across the halfway line. Also capable in the air
5 Mücahit 6.9
took quite a few aerial challenges with the tall G Torfason, and in general did well. Solely defensively focused
6 Gökhan 6.8
unadventurous at the back of midfield, though challenged well in the air
7 Oğuz 7.1
intelligent off the ball running was a bit of a surprise, but prefered to direct operations from in or around the centre circle
8 Rıdvan 6.7
a lot of running off the ball into channels, but of little effect
9 Ünal 7.4
sublime close control, delightfully taken volley for the equalizer. The inverted wide man so often in the director’s role
10 Tanju 6.3
desperately poor first half where nothing goes right, and he even misses an injury time penalty. Does raise his game somewhat after the break, and came to a couple of chances which were blocked. Looked off the pace at times
11 Savaş 6.5
he did have determination, but very little end product as neither passes nor crosses were of desired quality
1 Friðriksson 7.1
gave a competent display, where the highlight was his first half penalty save from Tanju. Confident in what he had to do, and a parry from Tanju’s second half effort was vital
2 Gíslason 6.8
typically gritted performance, won a fair few tackles, though hosts sought to capitalize on his slightly disappointing positioning in relation to Eðvaldsson
3 Eðvaldsson 6.9
remained calm, but as mentioned above, he did not always have a great connection with Gíslason. Gave away the penalty somewhat clumsily. Solid in the air as you’d have expected, and could perhaps have made a penalty claim of his own
4 Arnþórsson 6.7
full of running and energy, but hardly useful in possession. Takes a knock when blocking a shot, and comes of a while after
(15 Áskelsson –
slots into Arnþórsson’s position, and has a grandiose opportunity to regain Iceland’s lead when finishing wide after played through in the area)
5 Bergsson 6.9
stayed back, gave away a couple of free-kicks which seemed somewhat needless. Went into less challenges than his fellow central defenders
6 Jónsson 6.9
composed and well positioned. Usually the one hitting free-kicks long from inside his own half
7 Margeirsson 6.7
combative and energetic, but another one who was not very successful when in possession. Fine late first half header which Fatih saved low by the post
8 Þórðarson 6.8
another committed player, and connected well with Jónsson. Limited operations inside opponent’s half, but hugely successful when he won the ball against two opponents prior to crossing for the goal
9 Guðjohnsen 7.0
always on the run, strong in holding the ball up, enjoyed taking opponents on, and had a couple of fine crosses, most notably for Margeirsson’s first half header
10 G Torfason 6.7
got the all important goal, but other than that predominantly gave away free-kicks. Not hugely mobile, but definitely a challenge in the air for the home side’s defenders. Some poor passing
11 Ó Torfason 6.7
not highly visible, but well positioned at the back of the midfield, and wins a few challenges