Burak Yılmaz admitted that nerves were prevalent in the Turkey ranks during the 1-0 defeat of Azerbaijan that secured Guus Hiddink's side a place in the UEFA EURO 2012 play-offs.
A point behind second-placed Belgium before the final round of qualifiers in Group A, Turkey needed their closest rivals to slip up against section winners Germany. The news filtering through from Dusseldorf that Belgium were trailing Germany helped calm the hosts and Burak then did the rest on the hour, clipping the ball over Kamran Agayev following Selçuk İnan's deep pass.
"We were under high pressure, especially in the first half," said the Trabzonspor AŞ forward, the leading marksman in the Turkish Super League this season. "We knew we could beat Azerbaijan, but there's a difference between knowing it and actually doing it. In that sense, it was quite a relief to learn that Belgium had fallen behind to Germany at half-time. That had an immediate impact on our game – we were more relaxed and sooner or later that had to result in us scoring."
The 26-year-old's goal was his third in qualifying and he paid tribute to Selçuk for creating the opening, his team-mate having only been sent on two minutes earlier. "I love playing with him," said Burak. "We seem to connect really well on the pitch. He knows exactly where and when to pass the ball to me. Tonight that resulted in the decisive goal, and I feel honoured to have scored it."
Burak is now hoping Turkey can raise their game before next month's play-offs, with their opponents to be decided during Thursday's draw in Krakow. "Everything went according to plan tonight, but that doesn't mean we don't have to improve," he explained. "I know we can do better. After all, we had just one week to prepare for the games against Germany [a 3-1 loss on Friday] and Azerbaijan. On top of that, the squad had to cope with a number of players out injured or just returning from injury. Not everybody was physically ready, but in the end we achieved our goal, which was to finish second."
Hamit Altıntop backed up that analysis. "We always expected Germany to come first in this group, and by qualifying for the play-offs we did what we set out to do," said the Real Madrid CF midfielder. "As a team, we're aware of our shortcomings, however. These have nothing to do with problems within the squad; they're technical issues which we can overcome by working harder. If each and every individual player sets the bar high for himself, as a squad we will definitely grow."
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