presented by
International preview

Do-or-die clash for Altintop and Turks

With 12 of the 16 starting berths at next summer’s Euro 2008 finals in Switzerland and Austria already taken, Bayern midfielder Hamit Altintop is aiming to help Turkey claim one of the four remaining places in the last round of qualifiers on Wednesday.

The Turks, second in Group C by a point from Norway, face Bosnia Herzegovina in Istanbul knowing victory would hand them a place at the finals, but anything less would leave them dependent on also-rans Malta denying the Scandinavians an odds-on victory.

Altintop a key personality

Turkey kept alive their qualifying dream with a battling 2-1 win away to Norway on Saturday, but coach Fatih Terim warned his men not to underestimate the Bosnians. “I want the same commitment we showed against Norway. We’re not through to the Euro yet, there are still 90 minutes of football to play.“ Turkey lost 3-2 in the Balkans when the nations last met.

The Turks failed to qualify for both Euro 2004 and the 2006 World Cup. “We don’t want to go through that again, and I’m sure we won’t,“ Terim declared, praising Altintop’s contribution to the success in Oslo. “He’s disciplined, dynamic, and scores goals,“ the coach enthused. Hamit has contributed two goals and two assists in ten qualifying appearances.

Toni versus Ribéry

Elsewhere, Miroslav Klose, Lukas Podolski and Philipp Lahm will be hoping to hit the goal trail when Germany entertain Wales in Frankfurt am Main. The Germans are already through to the finals but are engaged in a long-distance contest to win Group D with the Czech Republic, who travel to Cyprus. “I reckon Wales are slightly weaker than Cyprus,” Klose remarked.

Group B features another duel for top spot, and also a Bayern v Bayern clash between Luca Toni and Franck Ribéry. Going into the final round of matches, Italy lead France by a point at the top of the standings. Ribéry and France visit the Ukraine, with the Azzurri at home to the Faeroe Islands. Should Italy lose and the French draw, the World Cup runners-up would win the section thanks to their better direct record against the reigning world champions, although both are in any case already through to the finals.

Maximum points for Gauchos

That is unfortunately not the case for Daniel van Buyten and Belgium, destined to finish a disappointing fifth in Group A whatever the result of their final qualifier in Azerbaijan.

Over in South America, the focus is already on places at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. On matchday 4, Martin Demichelis and table-toppers Argentina are keen to extend their 100% record with a win away to Colombia. It promises to be a tricky challenge: not only are the home side still unbeaten with a win and two draws, the match takes place in the thin Bogota air 2,600 metres above sea level.

Lucio suspended

Argentina are still pre-match favourites, as Demichelis and his fellow defenders have yet to concede a goal in qualifying. Bayern’s Micho had been performing at a consistently high level, boss Alfio Basile declared. “I’m really pleased I opted to call him up. I was just checking my options, but he’s absolutely convinced me.“

Demichelis’ fellow centre-half Lucio will play no active part when Brazil take on Uruguay in Sao Paulo as the Bayern man is suspended after collecting a second booking of the competition. Following a disappointing 1-1 draw in Peru, the Seleção are under pressure to record a second win from four games and remain in touch with arch-rivals Argentina.