Plans for a peace summit between the English and Turkish football associations before next month's Euro 2004 qualifying decider took shape yesterday as Sven Goran Eriksson was left pondering a prediction that England are not good enough to secure the single point they need from the game.
The summit is being arranged by Uefa, European football's governing body, and is likely to happen on 25 September in Nyon, Switzerland. The aim is to curb rising tensions surrounding the match on 11 October in Istanbul after the president of the Turkish FA was quoted making inflammatory comments about the fixture. Haluk Ulusoy had criticised Eriksson for warning English fans that their safety was in jeopardy if they travelled. "Of course he doesn't want England fans in Turkey because he doesn't want them to see a defeat," Ulusoy said.
Uefa wants the feuding to stop and is calling for all parties to start working together to ensure a peaceful outcome. Eriksson has said that he intends to visit Istanbul in the build-up to the game to host a joint press conference with his Turkish counterpart, Senol Gunes, although no date has yet been arranged.
The prediction that England are not good enough to win the game is unlikely to trouble Eriksson, although it comes from an international manager who has faced both England and Turkey in the past week.
"It's going to be really difficult for England against Turkey," said Walter Hormann, whose Liechtenstein side lost 2-0 away at Old Trafford on Wednesday having lost 3-0 at home against Turkey on Saturday. "England are capable of a better performance but they weren't great against us. The Turkish players are creative and play good technical football. It will be difficult for England to get one point."
Many would argue that the assessment of Hormann, after only two competitive games in charge of the 145th-ranked nation in world football, is of little relevance. But his suggestion that a 2-0 defeat for Liechtenstein on Wednesday was "a disappointing result" was not as ludicrous as it might have seemed. Even Eriksson conceded that Liechtenstein almost grabbed a late consolation goal.
England's players have reacted to their few-frills midweek success in a more bullish manner, with Michael Owen saying he is relishing the prospect of the Turkey game. "England have tended to respond in big qualifying games in recent years, like the Italy and Germany games," said the Liverpool striker, who scored his 24th England goal on Wednesday.
"We have got a lot of big-game players in our team who perform when it is needed most. There are a lot of teams that can play well against minor sides but we tend to do just enough.
"But when we play against good sides we've done really well," Owen added. "You focus your mind a lot more. Certainly we play better against better opposition. I think our best form of defence over there is to try and score goals. It's not easy playing for a draw, especially away from home. I don't think we'll sit back."
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