The Turkish players were celebrating like they had won a World Cup final after they managed to draw with France to keep the lead in their Euro 2020 qualifiers group. Even though the game ended in an entertaining 1-1 draw, Turkey will be the happier side, staying on top at 19 points, with France second due their head to head record. In the opposite fixture in Konya, Turkey had trounced France 2-0, showing that they mean business.
The World Cup winners have not been doing as well as you might expect the best team in the World to do. They were beaten by the Netherlands for a spot in the Nations League play-off games and they have been bullied by Şenol Güneş’ new look Turkish side in both home and away games.
Turkey were not necessarily the better side today, as they had been in the game on Turkish soil but their grit and tenacity got them through the game. They defended deep and bravely and ran forward in numbers whenever a chance for a counter-attack presented itself. Burak Yilmaz, the Turkish captain, missed a sitter at 0-0 and could have decided this game himself.
France relentlessly assailed the Turkish defense, looking for a weakness. Griezmann was particularly lively. So were Coman and Matuidi. Wissam Ben Yedder, who started instead of France regular Giroud, was disappointing though. Within minutes of Giroud coming on in his stead, France took the lead, leading fans to think their second all-time top scorer had once again saved the day.
It was not to be as Turkey showed their strength on set pieces six minutes after France’s opener, with Kaan getting the goal. The French defense will have some introspecting to do vis-a-vis their performance today. Varane was shaky. Pavard was abysmal going forward and was the player who kept Kaan onside for Turkey’s goal. Mandanda, deputizing for French number one and captain Hugo Lloris, could have done better on the goal, had he been quicker to close the angle.
As for this Turkish team, they will hurt plenty of European giants with the energy and never-say-die attitude they bring to the game. I would not be surprised if they come out of Euro 2020 as standout performers.
France need to defend better. A solid, compact defensive unit was what won them the World Cup. In the absence of Kante, Pogba, Mbappe, Umtiti and Lloris, it’s understandable they were a bit exposed but Deschamps has serious questions to ask of Benjamin Parvard especially, who did not look like he was good enough to be a starting right-back today.