Loss to Turkey slap in the face for France: Deschamps

France forward Antoine Griezmann is easily shackled by Turkey defender Zeki Celik during their Euro 2020 qualifier in Konya. The hosts beat the world champions 2-0 to lead Group H by three points.
France forward Antoine Griezmann is easily shackled by Turkey defender Zeki Celik during their Euro 2020 qualifier in Konya. The hosts beat the world champions 2-0 to lead Group H by three points.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

KONYA (Turkey) • World champions France had been warned to expect a red-hot atmosphere ahead of their Euro 2020 qualifier in Turkey on Saturday.

Both sides boasted a 100 per cent record going into the match with two Group H victories but it was never going to be an easy game for Les Bleus in the central Turkish city of Konya, with their players speaking about "the pressure of their support".

While the hosts failed to qualify for last year's World Cup in Russia, they have been rejuvenated after Senol Gunes returned to the coaching hot seat in February, winning all their matches since.

And Didier Deschamps' players wilted in the face of sustained pressure on the pitch and the rabid support from the home crowd.

After slumping to a 2-0 loss - defender Kaan Ayhan opened the scoring before winger Cengiz Under fired in a second before half-time - the France coach admitted their first defeat by Turkey was "a slap in the face for us".

He told French broadcaster TF1: "There's not a lot I can say. We have a different challenge on Tuesday and I have to say well done to Turkey. We need to get back to basics.

"When you play like that on a collective level, there is nothing positive you can take from the game.

"We didn't put in the match we needed to against a team that played their game. That's top-level football, and it's the same whether you are world champions or not."

Turkey were good value for the upset win during which they held France to zero shots on target.

Despite Deschamps fielding nine of the 11 players who started last year's World Cup final against Croatia, the visitors were indebted to goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, who denied Gunes' men several times, for keeping the scoreline down.

The Turkey coach, however, could not fault his players for not being more clinical as he reflected on an "awesome" night.

He told broadcaster Spor Arena: "This team is here to give both hope and happiness. The players and fans were awesome. We played with discipline and with one heart."

Victory pushed Turkey, who continue their qualifying campaign away to Iceland tomorrow, three points clear of France, who travel to face minnows Andorra the same day, at the top of Group H.

Separately, Italy crushed Greece 3-0 in Athens to notch up their third win in as many games, pulling three points clear of Group J.

Germany eased past hosts Belarus 2-0 to make it two wins from their first two Group C qualifiers and Belgium romped to a 3-0 home win over Kazakhstan to top Group I.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 10, 2019, with the headline 'Loss to Turkey slap in the face for France: Deschamps'. Print Edition | Subscribe