Turkey beat Azerbaijan 4-1 to win the third edition of Caspian Cup, the Under-17 friendly tournament organised by the Association of Football Federations of Azerbaijan (AFFA).
The final was a closer affair than the scoreline would suggest. Elnur Jafarov missed a 22nd-minute penalty for the hosts and 2011 winners Turkey then surged forward to score through captain Enes Ünal, with Doğuş Can İncedere making it 2-0 within three minutes.
Kam Benhur replied, as Turkey conceded their first goal of the competition, but Enes struck back a minute before the break and completed his hat-trick with a spectacular bicycle kick in the second half.
"That was a very nice tournament as our youngsters had an opportunity for further development," said Turkey coach Hakan Tecimer. "Everything was great quality – the hotel and training pitches."
Azerbaijan coach Nikolay Adam added: "It is very disappointing, but I am happy with the whole picture of our performances and proud of my team. With so many strong opponents, it was not an easy task to get to the final. Those were very good preparations for our qualifying campaign."
The Caspian Cup is now a regular fixture, with AFFA eager to perfect their organisational skills and give players the opportunity to get into shape ahead of the start of the qualifying phase of the UEFA European Under-17 Championship. The field was expanded from eight teams to 12 for this edition, with sides from UEFA and other continental confederations competing in three groups of four.
The 80-minute games were played at the Dalga Arena and Bayil Stadium in Baku and transmitted live by the AFFA website and a local sports channel. After a tense week of qualifying, the final standings were decided by play-offs on 4 and 5 June. On Tuesday, the United States beat Uzbekistan 5-2 to finish fifth; Uruguay secured seventh place with a 3-2 defeat of Bulgaria; Tajikstan edged out Kyrgyzstan for ninth place following a 2-1 victory and Kazakhstan finished 12th after losing 7-6 to Jordan on penalties following a 2-2 draw.
The top four sides played off on Wednesday. First Japan took third place, beating holders Georgia 5-3 in a shoot-out following a 0-0 draw, before Turkey got the better of Azerbaijan, who had lost 1-0 to Georgia in the 2012 decider. It proved to be a valuable experience for all participants, though, with USA coach Jim Rooney noting: "We wanted to improve our play and we achieved that. The journey to Azerbaijan was a great experience for my lads."
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