Wales captain Gareth Bale said on yesterday a “hostile” Baku crowd supporting Turkey in their Euro 2020 Group A match will motivate his side. Bale’s team face the Crescent Stars today and the locals will be backing Turkey due to the historical and cultural links between Ankara and Baku.
According to the Azerbaijani football association, some 4,000 Turkish fans have made the trip to the city on the edge of the Caspian Sea.
“Hostility is no problem. This is what we do for a living. We’re used to playing in away games and being in front of hostile crowds,” Bale said. “It’s something we enjoy doing. If anything it spurs us on to be a bit more ruthless on the pitch and hopefully we can keep them silent.”
Wales, who surprisingly reached the Euro 2016 semi-finals in just their second appearance at a major tournament, began their campaign with Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Switzerland. They trail Group A leaders Italy by two points, before heading to Rome on Sunday.
Robert Page’s side likely need to avoid defeat at Baku’s Olympic Stadium to keep their hopes of a last 16 spot alive. “It’s not always about the performance, sometimes in tournament football you have to find a way to get a result and we’ve done that,” Page said.
“We’ve shown resilience. We’ve identified this one (Turkey) as one we can do alright in. Four points from two games will set us up nicely going into the game against Italy,” he added.
Turkey captain Burak Yilmaz urged his teammates to shake off a heavy defeat by Italy in the opener and use the strong local support in Baku to their favour against Wales. Turkey had just three shots on target against Italy, as Yilmaz was kept in check after he scored 18 goals in all competitions this season for French champions Lille.
“For two days following the game we were very fragile, we were very broken. We were really tired and negative,” Yilmaz said. “The coach had effective meetings with us. And then we started to feel better and we started to get back to normal.”
Turkey need to avoid defeat against Wales if they are to keep their hopes alive of reaching the knockout stages of the competition for the first time since 2008. “I would like to extend my thanks to Azerbaijani citizens. They are our friends, our brothers. From the first day they have made us feel this,” the 35-year-old Yilmaz said. “In Italy we were 100 % away, from the entrance to the exit of the stadium. Tomorrow I hope we will be at home. It will be like a host city for us. With the help of the country we want to win this game.”
Turkey coach Senol Gunes said defenders Caglar Soyuncu and Umut Meras are fit to face Wales despite missing training. Leicester centre-back Soyuncu and Le Havre left-back Meras were absent from Sunday’s session as they received treatment for unspecified injuries.
“Those two players had little injuries but we don’t have any players with injuries,” Gunes said. “These two players did not train, but all the players and the group are good and they are sound. “They are mentally ready and they will do their best on the pitch tomorrow.”
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