Coach Fatih Terim joked that "hard matches come easier" to Turkey as his side prepare to host neighbours Greece following a run of unsettling Group C results.
Having beaten Greece 4-1 in Athens in March in arguably their biggest UEFA EURO 2008™ qualifier to date, Turkey looked set to take a commanding lead in the section, but they have won only one of five games since. The 3-2 defeat in Bosnia-Herzegovina in June preceded away draws against the group's bottom two sides, Malta and – last Saturday – Moldova.
'Not easy any more'
However, Terim hopes such difficulties will be forgotten when Greece visit Istanbul's Ali Sami Yen Stadium on Wednesday. "The race is continuing at a fierce pace," he said. "Although Greece are ahead at the moment, we have decisive games against both the Greeks and Norway. Games we once called easy are not easy any more. In fact, the hard matches come easier to us. I have confidence in my players."
Turkey are four points adrift of Greece in second place in Group C and are at risk of missing next summer's finals, with Norway – whom they face in Oslo on 17 November – lurking ominously one point behind. Terim, however, remains optimistic, saying: "Despite dropping unexpected points, we are still second. I say we can achieve our goal though we will do it the hard way."
A meeting with Greece is sure to focus Turkish minds. "Matches against Greece have always been special," said Terim. "We have won many games at the Ali Sami Yen Stadium in the past and we aim to add a new victory to those. I think Greece will not risk a lot and will try to get a point as they are still not guaranteed qualification."
The game is only the fourth competitive fixture between the two countries' senior sides. They drew 0-0 twice in 2006 FIFA World Cup qualifying. Veteran Turkey striker Hakan Şükür is nursing a slight hand injury and will be assessed on Tuesday. First-choice goalkeeper Hakan Arıkan is out of contention with a stomach injury and will be replaced by Fenerbahçe SK's Volkan Demirel.
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