Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Wednesday, June 12, 2002

Embattled Turkey Going for Broke while China Play for Pride

China and Turkey line up for their Group C finale on Thursday with different but equally compelling reasons to go all out for victory.


China and Turkey line up for their Group C finale on Thursday with different but equally compelling reasons to go all out for victory.

The Turks can still snatch a second round place, while for China, pride is at stake.

To make matters more complicated, Turkish fans will be keeping half an eye on the other group game, in which Brazil have to defeat battling Costa Rica to give their team even a chance of advancing.

Turkish coach Senol Gunes has faced heavy domestic criticism after his players followed an unlucky opening defeat to Brazil with a 1-1 draw against Costa Rica, the unfancied Central Americans grabbing an 86th minute equaliser.

Due to Gunes's "mistakes ... the chance of advancing to the second round is left to a miracle," the Sabah newspaper charged.

Veteran Turkish striker Hakan Sukur has also joined in the sniping, blaming team-mates for his poor World Cup performance in remarks reported at home this week.

The divisions are a far cry from pre-tournament predictions of success for a strong, skilful Turkish team enjoying the country's first World Cup in 48 years, and the players know they have just one more chance to redeem themselves.

The potential Group C mathematics are tortuous, but should Brazil defeat the Costa Ricans, Turkey have to beat China by at least two clear goals to make sure of their passage.

While it is by means no certain the Turks can rely on Brazil -- who will definitely be without inspirational left back Roberto Carlos and are expected to rest a trio a yellow-carded players -- China, in theory, should be an easier propect.

Following Saturday's 4-0 loss to Brazil, discussion has switched from results at this event to frank talk of exactly how far the Chinese game lags behind the global elite, not to mention Asian rivals Japan and South Korea who are both of the verge of reaching the second round of the tournament.

"We will try our best to score a goal, but I am not so optimistic. Probably we are going to lose again, but we will try hard anyway," striker Yang Chen admitted candidly after the team's final training session at their base on Korea's Jeju island.

The squad even elected not to train on Tuesday afternoon after arriving in Seoul, instead going to watch the France's disastrous defeat to Denmark just outside the capital.

Nonetheless, there are signs that Milutinovic, for whom Thursday's match is almost certain to be his last in charge of China, could gamble for glory in one final roll of the dice.

Although the loss to Brazil was severe, China's best moments in the World Cup came from a youthful second half line-up propelled by vigorous legs unfettered by years of failure.

There are signs that young stars like Du Wei and Qu Bo, both just 20, could be sent out with instructions to restore some national dignity.

"I do not talk about my teams before the game," Milutinovic said bluntly before leaving Jeju.

But there is little doubt the Yugoslav will be desperate to cause an upset, both to preserve his reputation in China and also as a favour to Costa Rica, who he guided to the second round of the 1990 World Cup.

"For us it is very important to finish well. This is our aim, our goal," he said.

"Secondly, we need to make a big effort to do our best to play, for the competition."

The potantial bad news for his Central American friends is that Turkey will have Hakan Unsal and Alpay Ozalan back from one-game suspensions imposed for controversial sendings-off against Brazil.

Also, while Sukur has had a poor tournament so far, the "Bull of the Bosphorus" is due a rampage, and could wreak havoc on China's defence, especially if veteran full backs Fan Zhiyi and Sun Jihai fail to return from injury.

Source: Agencies

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