Turkey got its 2022 World Cup campaign off to a cracking start with a 4-2 victory against the Netherlands at the Atatürk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul last night.
Lille striker Burak Yılmaz (pictured top) was on top form, bagging three goals: a deflected long-range effort on 15 minutes, a penalty nineteen minutes later, and a curling free kick into the top right corner in the 81stminute to put the game beyond Netherlands’ reach.
The Dutch side, sitting eighteen places above Turkey in 14thplace in the FIFA global rankings, rarely troubled the Turkish goalkeeper Uğurcan Çakır in the first half, although they nearly scored just before half-time with a Matthijs de Ligt header that was cleared off the line.
The visitors went in trailing 2-0 at half time, and within a minute of the re-start, Turkey had extended their lead to 3-0 thanks to a slick turn and shot from just outside the penalty area by AC Milan midfielder Hakan Çalhanoğlu.
Netherlands picked up the pace after making three substitutes in the 62nd and 69th minutes. Two of them, Davy Klaassen and Frenkie de Jong, scored a goal apiece a minute apart, on the 75th and 76th minutes.
Any fears that Turkey could throw away a three goal lead eased when Yılmaz scored his third goal. Although there was another scare in injury time when Netherlands were awarded a penalty, poorly taken by Memphis Depay and saved by Çakır.
The 4-2 win puts Turkey level top of Group G with Norway.
Azerbaijan and Wales lose opening games
Azerbaijan suffered a defeat in their World Cup qualifier. Away to Portugal, they were beaten 1-0 following an own goal by Maksim Medvedev on the 37th minute.
Wales lost 3-1 away to Belgium, having taken the lead in the 10th minute through a great team goal finished off by Harry Wilson.
England, Scotland and Northern Ireland play tonight.