AFP / Konya, Turkey
World champions France slumped to a 2-0 loss to Turkey in Euro 2020 qualifying on Saturday night amid a red-hot atmosphere in Konya. Kaan Ayhan headed Turkey ahead on the half-hour mark and Cengiz Under fired in a second before half-time to give the hosts a first ever win over France.
Didier Deschamps fielded nine of the players that started last year’s World Cup final but France struggled to create chances, while Hugo Lloris denied Turkey on a number of occasions. “That was a slap in the face for us and there’s not a lot I can say,” Deschamps said.
“We have a different challenge on Tuesday and I have to say well done to Turkey. We need to get back to basics. When you play like that on a collective level there is nothing positive you can take from the game. We didn’t put in the match we needed to against a team that played their game. That’s top-level football and it’s the same whether you are world champions or not.”
Victory pushed Turkey three points clear of France at the top of Group H after Senol Gunes’ side won for the third time in as many outings. They continue their qualifying campaign away to Iceland tomorrow while France will expect to rebound on their trip to minnows Andorra.
Meanwhile, Germany assistant coach Marcus Sorg hailed an “impressive” performance after his team eased to a routine 2-0 win over Belarus in Borisov. With Joachim Loew still convalescent after his recent accident in the gym, Sorg directed proceedings from the dugout as a young Germany side outclassed Belarus.
“It was a bit unusual today but everything went well. We are all looking forward to Jogi’s return,” Sorg said. “It was an impressive performance today and one we can build on,” he said.
Leroy Sane and Marco Reus scored either side of half-time in a dominant display which saw Germany notch up 23 shots to Belarus’ six. The win puts Germany second in Group C, having played one game fewer than leaders Northern Ireland, who beat Estonia earlier on Saturday.
Germany pushed forward straight from the kick-off, and were rewarded with the opener on 12 minutes. Joshua Kimmich released Sane into the box, and the Manchester City winger swept the ball into the bottom corner.
Their inexperience briefly showed as they wobbled at the back after taking the lead. Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer twice bailed them out in the first half, first with a reflex save and then with some fancy footwork outside his penalty area. By the time the second half got underway, however, Germany had already re-established a firm grip on the game. Reus sealed the win just after the hour mark, picking up a fine diagonal ball from Matthias Ginter and clipping it into the roof of the net. Germany face Estonia in Mainz in their third qualifying game tomorrow.
Italy crushed Greece 3-0 to notch up their third win in as many games and pull three points clear at the top of their group in Athens on Saturday.
The four-time world champions have put the failure to qualify for last year’s World Cup behind them, and have now been transformed under new coach Roberto Mancini. Nicolo Barella opened the scoring after 23 minutes with Lorenzo Insigne and Leonardo Bonucci adding two more in a 10-minute blitz which followed. Mancini’s side have now scored a total of 11 goals and none conceded in their three Group J qualifiers against Greece, Finland and Liechtenstein.
The Italians next play Bosnia-Herzegovina, who fell 2-0 to Finland, in Turin tomorrow, while Greece play Armenia, who beat Liechtenstein 3-0. “No, it wasn’t my best Italy,” said Mancini, who took over in May 2018.
“For example, in the second half we had to score more goals. This needs to be improved. After a year of work, we are ahead of schedule, we improve match after match, but there is still a lot of work to do.”
Italy have nine points, with Finland second with six points, followed by Greece and Bosnia-Herzegovina on four. Andrea Belotti marked his return to the Azzurri by setting up 22-year-old Barella to rifle in just his second international goal. Insigne then broke through after half an hour curling in from 15 metres out to leave Vasilios Barkas with no chance in the Greek goal. Three minutes later the Greeks were reeling when Bonucci latched onto an Emerson Palmieri cross to head home.
Italy could have scored more with Barkas denying Insigne and Alessandro Florenzi late, and Fiorentina star Federico Chiesa sending over when alone in front of goal. “The most important thing now is to understand why didn’t we score a fourth goal in the second half?” said Mancini.
“We should have pushed harder, we risked conceding, as Greece nearly hurt us on the counter a couple of times. There’s still a lot of work to do but the important thing is that we continued to improve and had the right attitude.”
Euro 2020 qualifiers Results
Group C: Estonia 1 (Vassiljev 25) Northern Ireland 2 (Washington 77, Magennis 80); Belarus 0 Germany 2 (Sane 13, Reus 62)
Group E: Croatia 2 (Lawrence 17-og, Perisic 48) Wales 1 (Brooks 77); Azerbaijan 1 (Emreli 69) Hungary 3 (Orban 18, 53, Holman 71)
Group H: Iceland 1 (Gudmundsson 22) Albania 0; Turkey 2 (Ayhan 30, Under 40) France 0; Moldova 1 (Armas 8) Andorra 0
Group I: Russia 9 (Cevoli 25-og, 41-og, Dzyuba 31-pen, 73, 76, 88, Kudryashov 36, Smolov 77, 83) San Marino 0; Belgium 3 (Mertens 11, Castagne 14, R. Lukaku 50) Kazakhstan 0; Scotland 2 (Robertson 61, Burke 89) Cyprus 1 (Kousoulos 87)
Group J: Finland 2 (Pukki 56, 68)
Bosnia-Herzegovina 0; Armenia 3
(Ghazaryan 2, Karapetyan 18,
Barseghyan 90+1) Liechtenstein 0; Greece 0 Italy 3 (Barella 24, Insigne 30, Bonucci 33)
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