A narrow victory against an obdurate Azerbaijan side secured Turkey a spot in the UEFA EURO 2012 play-offs, lifting them above Belgium into second place in qualifying Group A.
Turkey knew that only a win would suffice to give them any chance of pipping Belgium to the runners-up berth and, after a hard-fought hour of action, Burak Yılmaz scored the all-important goal to fulfil his team's half of the bargain. The rest was out of their hands, but Germany's 3-1 home defeat of the Diables Rouges answered their prayers.
The turning point of the game came on 58 minutes when Turkey coach Guus Hiddink elected to replace Kazım Kazım with Selçuk İnan. It proved to be a masterstroke as Selçuk's first touch brought a miraculous save out of goalkeeper Kamran Agayev; his second was even better, a deep pass allowing Burak to clip the ball over Agayev.
Hiddink had opted for a more attacking lineup than in Friday's 3-1 loss to Germany and his selection almost brought reward in the opening minute, Kazım Kazım fluffing his lines when presented with a chance by the equally hesitant visiting defence. Although Emre Belözoğlu was fortunate to get away with gifting a loose pass to Aleksandr Chertoganov, Turkey dominated the first half albeit without converting possession into chances against resolute opponents set up to attack on the break.
The hosts drove forward without an end product and their frustration was epitomised by Burak's disallowed goal for offside early in the second period. The striker's next effort counted, however, and Turkey successfully negotiated the remaining half-hour as news of Belgium's impending fate began to filter down from the stands.
©UEFA.com 1998-2015. All rights reserved.