Beaten by Germany and Azerbaijan in their previous two UEFA EURO 2012 qualifiers, Turkey needed to regain their Group A footing against Austria on Tuesday – and thanks to strikes from Arda Turan and Gökhan Gönül, and a late penalty save by Volkan Demirel, they certainly did.
"I enjoyed this game a lot and I think I can speak for all my team-mates," said midfielder Arda, who broke the deadlock after 28 minutes in Istanbul before Gökhan Gönül sealed a 2-0 victory for Guus Hiddink's side 12 minutes from time. "Not that it was easy – that's why we couldn't settle for 1-0 and went looking for that second goal. We have to thank Volkan for stopping the penalty, because the last five minutes would have been very stressful if he hadn't."
If Hamit Altıntop was pleased with the performance, he was more concerned with a result that lifted Turkey above Austria and into third place in Group A. "
The only thing that counts is the scoreline," the midfielder said. "We deserved the win, but the most important thing is that our young players take confidence from this and carry on in the same vein."
A junior member of the hosts' midfield union, Nuri Şahin, concurred: "We can do even better once we get rid of our impatience, but that comes from a lack of experience." The 22-year-old is now focusing on Turkey's next qualifier away to second-ranked Belgium on 3 June, saying: "Second place is our goal. This was a big step but Belgium is the next challenge.
One of three players of Turkish origin fielded by Austria, substitute Ümit Korkmaz enjoyed playing at the Şükrü Saracoğlu home of Fenerbahçe SK, yet was disappointed his team could not do better. "It was a special feeling to play against Turkey in Istanbul, but I chose to represent Austria and have to honour their colours," he said, having represented Austria at senior level since 2008. "I did my best but it wasn't enough against opponents this strong."
Midfielder David Alaba was similarly magnanimous. "We lost but I'm not unhappy with how we played," said the 18-year-old, whose side slipped three points behind Belgium and eight adrift of leaders Germany. "We played according to plan, kept it tight and looked to take the few chances we would get. Those chances came but we couldn't turn them into goals. Losing two straight qualifiers [after Friday's home defeat by Belgium] is hard, but as long as we have a mathematical chance of second place we can't give up."
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