Kuntz ready for action with Turkey-Norway World Cup qualifiers
No time to settle down for Stefan Kuntz as the German coach will make his debut as head coach of the Turkish national soccer team in a crucial 2022 World Cup qualifier.
Turkey will host Norway on Friday night in a must-see match at Istanbul’s Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium.
Although Turkey still have a good chance of qualifying for their first World Cup in 20 years, the current form of the squad raises huge questions.
In the last six games, Turkey’s only victory has come against the Gibraltar minnow. In the same span, Turkey suffered three pointless defeats in the rescheduled Euro 2020 group stage, ceded a two-goal lead to Montenegro at home and were hammered 6-1 by the Netherlands. Low during the previous international break a month ago.
This series of poor results led to the departure of coach Şenol Güneş and the appointment of Kuntz.
With 11 points from six matches, Turkey are third in Group G of the European qualifiers, two points behind the Netherlands and Norway. A win over the Norwegians would put Kuntz’s men at the very least in second place.
Only the group winners qualify directly for the World Cup. The second place finishers face a playoff.
Turkey beat Norway in their opener in March securing a comfortable 3-0 victory. While Turkey’s form has dropped significantly since that draw, Norway have taken three wins and a draw at home against group favorites Netherlands in qualifying for the World Cup.
This time around, Turkey will focus on rejuvenation by bringing in a new coach as well as Kuntz’s expected tactical overhaul.
Media have suggested that the German coach wants to bring more urgency and vertical play to the midfield and rid the players of the excess leniency in back passes that annoyed fans. Cengiz Ünder and Hakan Çalhanoğlu, who both got off to a solid start in their new lives at Olympique Marseille and Inter Milan respectively, are expected to lead the attack with veteran Lille striker Burak Yılmaz.
Norway, meanwhile, will miss several key players against Turkey. The squad’s best forwards, Erling Haaland and Alexander Sorloth, won’t be featured, nor will Premier League duo Joshua King and Kristoffer Ajer.
Following Norway, Turkey expects a trip to Latvia on Monday, with whom they surprisingly drew 3-3 at home in March, after well-deserved wins against the Netherlands and Norway.
Germany on the verge of sealing the deal
Elsewhere on Friday night, German coach Hansi Flick will face the pressure to shoulder the expectations of his football-mad country with his side closing in on a 2022 World Cup berth.
Flick, who took over from Joachim Loew earlier this year after Germany’s disappointment in the last two majors, has got off to a winning start with three wins in three games so far.
A victory over Romania on Friday would bring Germany one step closer to a World Cup berth in Qatar.
“I don’t feel any pressure. It’s a task you can do with a lot of joy,” Flick said at a press conference. “You have to have a good team around you … people with tremendous qualities that make you better. I feel safe and it’s a lot of fun.”
Germany could seal their qualification with a win over Romania and another win over North Macedonia next week, with the four-time world champion keen to put his last two tournaments behind him.
Germany suffered an exit in the first round of the 2018 World Cup and were eliminated in the last 16 at this year’s Euro.
He does, however, lead Group J in World Cup qualifying with 15 points in six games, with Armenia second at 11 and Romania third at 10.
Under Flick, the Germans have scored 12 goals and conceded none in those three matches.
“We have to win this game tomorrow and that is our goal,” said Flick. “I’ll take a 1-0, one goal, no conceded, three points. It’s a result we could live with. But it won’t be an easy game.”
“All of my players are fit and healthy. We are very satisfied and have a great atmosphere and what we particularly liked about training yesterday was the high intensity,” he said.
“Romania want to play football, carry the ball forward, they have kept their clean sheet in the last three games. So we need to have that intensity to put them under pressure.”