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Portugal: Turkey breaks jinx, beats Portugal after 57 long years


Istanbul, (Today's Zaman):

Turkey at last has broken the hoodoo against Portugal. Call it a friendly or whatever you want, the Turkish national football team subdued the Euro 2021-bound Portuguese 3-1 in a warm-up match at Lisbon's Estadio da Luz on Saturday night.

Turkey had not beaten Portugal since its 3-1 victory in a friendly at home on Dec. 18, 1955. And the Turks had also not scored a single goal against the Portuguese since they netted in their 5-1 away defeat on Jan. 14, 1965 -- 47 years ago, to be more accurate -- in a 1966 World Cup qualifying match.

Therefore, the six games between Portugal and Turkey since 1956 had always been a foregone conclusion -- a triumph for the Portuguese -- as the Turks were beaten in all of them. “Good or bad, nothing last forever,” they say. And so Turkey's jinx had to come to an end some day.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man
And the writing was on the wall for the Portuguese in the 35th minute when Toulouse forward Umut Bulut scored from close range to give Turkey a 1-0 lead.

The lanky striker reconnected a pass from the left flank by Nuremberg-born SpVgg Greuther Fürth lefty Sercan Sararer into the back net to give the Turks their first goal against Portugal in nearly half a century. And more was to come in the second half.

Umut doubled the score for the Turks in the 51st with a cracker of a shot outside the Portuguese box after receiving a perfect pass from former Trabzonspor teammate Burak Yılmaz.

Manchester United winger Luis Carlos Almeida da Cunha, aka Nani, pulled one back for poor host Portugal in the 57th, and a penalty by Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo in the 65th was saved by Turkish first-choice keeper Volkan Demirel.

However, an own-goal by Portugal's Real center back Kepler Laveran Lima Ferreira -- or simply Pepe -- in the 89th put the match beyond reach. A shot by Umut after a cross from Galatasaray midfielder Selçuk İnan rebounded off substitute Portugal keeper Eduardo dos Reis Carvalho. And a Portuguese defender desperately trying to clear the ball out of the danger zone kicked the ball against Pepe, and it gently sailed across the goal line to settle the deal: Portugal 1, Turkey 3.

“It was a very useful training camp,” man of the match Umut said. “We trained very hard, and this reflected on the pitch. We won 3-1 [over Portugal], and this was a very good result. Next in line is Ukraine, and we will also take that match very seriously,” he added.

Real Madrid's Hamit Altıntop free kick hitting the Portuguese post in the 33rd and Almeida's header rebounding off the Turkish post three minutes earlier were some of the other highlights of the game.

“We are on the path of becoming a good team,” Turkey coach Abdullah Avcı said after the match. “Winning has given a very good feeling and also boosted the players' morale,” he added.

Umut steals the show
Saturday's match was expected to be a showdown between Ronaldo, who scored a record 42 goals for Real in the Spanish La Liga this season, and Burak, who netted 32 for Trabzonspor in the Turkish Super League. But it was mere illusion as Umut emerged from nowhere to steal the show -- scoring a brace and also being instrumental in the third.

Turkey may have missed out on Euro 2012, which kicks off on Friday, but Saturday's match was very important for new coach Avcı, who is trying to form a team capable of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

The 3-1 victory over old nemesis Portugal has really boosted Turkey's morale. The Turks played three warm-up matches in Austria, beating Georgia and Bulgaria (2-0 and 2-0) and were beaten 3-2 by Finland. And the fact that the Turks scored at least two goals in every friendly match they played so far is also a big plus.

For Euro 2012 qualifier Portugal, the defeat raises questions as to whether Paulo Bento's men will be able to survive in the opening Group B -- or the “group of death” -- which includes Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark.

The Portuguese team, Beşiktaş playmaker Ricardo Quaresma in particular, faced a barrage of whistles from their fans after a disappointing 0-0 home draw against Macedonia the Saturday before last. On Saturday, the Portuguese players were again jeered and Almeida was booed as he left the pitch after being substituted by Oliveira in the 73rd.

This means the crisis at cash-strapped Beşiktaş, which has been banned from Europe for one year over financial irregularities, has not only affected local players of the İstanbul club but its foreign stars as well.

Turkey plays its last warm-up match against Euro 2012 co-host Ukraine in the German town of Ingolstadt on Tuesday. The Ukrainians -- drawn with France, England and Sweden in Group D --were beaten 3-2 by Austria in Innsbruck on Friday in their penultimate warm-up friendly ahead of the tournament.

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