Turkey and the Netherlands cannot both make it to UEFA EURO 2016; as the sides scrap for a play-off place, UEFA.com's correspondents size up their chances.
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Somewhat amazingly, Turkey or the Netherlands – and potentially both – will miss out on a place at the first 24-team UEFA European Championship final tournament next summer. Iceland and the Czech Republic have sewn up the direct qualification spots in Group A, with a play-off place all that is left for the two; UEFA.com's Turkish and Dutch correspondents compare notes.
Why has the campaign gone so badly?
Türker Tozar: Turkey underestimated their first opponents; an attack-minded side lost 3-0 in Iceland, while bad luck – and sloppy finishing – cost them five more points against the Czech Republic and Latvia, when they appeared to be the better side. Fatih Terim grumbled that Turkey lacked international-quality defenders. Regulars in play-offs, Turkey never seem to be at their best in qualifying. Maybe we just like it the hard way!
Berend Scholten: FIFA World Cup semi-finalists under Louis van Gaal, the Netherlands expected an easy ride under successor Guus Hiddink. However, after reverting from Van Gaal's 5-3-2 to a more classically Dutch 4-3-3, Hiddink suffered a 2-0 friendly defeat by Italy, and then surprisingly switched back to 5-3-2 for the opening qualifier against the Czechs – a 2-1 loss. Confidence has never truly returned since.
What efforts have been made to turn things around?
Türker Tozar: Fatih Terim has worked hard to forge a central-defensive partnership, Hakan Balta and Serdar Aziz now in place. Attack-minded wingers – Arda Turan on the left and Hakan on the right – have given Turkey more momentum, but they still struggle against defensive-minded sides. It takes time for a newly-formed team to settle and Terim is keen to try out new players. The 1-1 away draw against the Netherlands in March should be regarded as a turning point.
Berend Scholten: Originally scheduled to replace Hiddink after UEFA EURO 2016, Danny Blind ended up taking up the job on 1 August – his 54th birthday. "Hiddink and I are both from the Dutch school, so we believe in a certain kind of football," he told UEFA.com, promising only minor changes to the blueprint for September's games. Arjen Robben replaced Robin van Persie as captain, but was injured in the first half against Iceland and Bruno Martins Indi's dismissal heralded a 1-0 home reverse. The Dutch lost 3-0 in Turkey three days later.
Do fans still believe the team will make it to the finals?
Türker Tozar: Before the win against the Oranje in Konya, few gave Turkey much hope. However, there is now a degree of belief – tickets for the upcoming game in Prague and at home to Iceland have sold out. Four points from those fixtures will be enough, but with Burak Yılmaz training alone due to a hamstring injury, Terim is putting a lot of effort into getting the best out of back-up strikers Umut Bulut, Mevlüt Erdinç and Cenk Tosun and is working on a number of attacking systems. Supporters are following the situation closely and are wondering who will deputise for Burak in the event he cannot play.
Berend Scholten: The September defeats – and Robben's injury – have left belief at something of an all-time low. Fingers are crossed that Turkey might crumble under pressure, with Fenerbahçe striker Van Persie saying: "I notice at the club that the Turkish players have hardly any doubts that it will end well for them. But believe me, they will make at least one mistake. It is up to us to win twice. How we do that does not matter."
How bad would it be if the national team miss out?
Türker Tozar: Appointed as 'Football Director of Turkey', Fatih Terim has often said that his role is about more than leading the team to final tournaments. Turkish Football Federation (TFF) president Yıldırım Demirören has backed him and the media have been restrained in their criticism, mindful that Turkey's footballing problems are more profound than the national team.
Berend Scholten: Blind underlined the importance of getting to UEFA EURO 2016 before he made his Oranje coaching debut. "It is very important, for Dutch football as a whole," he said, telling UEFA.com: "And what could be more beautiful than a final tournament being played just around the corner in France?" Missing out on a first EURO since 1984 – and a first major final tournament since 2002 – would be crushing.