Turkey will be aiming to continue their 100% record in the current season of the UEFA Nations League when they host Luxembourg on Thursday. The visitors must win to stand any chance of leapfrogging their forthcoming opponents into top spot. Having been relegated to League C in the Nations League, Turkey were expected to bounce straight back to Europe’s second tier as the highest-ranked nation within the third tier this time around. So far, Stefan Kuntz’s side have certainly not failed to deliver, scoring 14 goals with no response, as they have racked up four wins from four matches against Luxembourg, Faroe Islands and Lithuania (twice).
Kuntz, whose equaliser against England at Euro 1996 helped knock the Three Lions out at the semi-final stage, has an impressive record since taking over the Crescent-Stars last September, winning seven of his 10 matches in charge. The only real blot on the 59-year-old’s copybook is the 3-1 defeat to Portugal in March, which ended Turkey’s hopes of qualifying for a third World Cup in the nation’s history. An eighth victory against Luxembourg on Thursday would at least confirm their promotion back to Europe’s League B in the Nations League, thereby potentially increasing their chances of securing a playoff spot for qualifying for the World Cup in 2026. Luxembourg, meanwhile, have been on an impressive journey under Luc Holtz since their former midfielder took over the senior team in 2010, reaching a historic high of 82nd in the FIFA World Rankings under his tutelage in September 2018.
In terms of the Nations League, Luxembourg were promoted to League C at the first attempt, before finishing second behind Montenegro in the last installment of the competition. History looks likely to repeat itself this time around unless they can secure a memorable victory at the Basaksehir Fatih Terim Stadium on Thursday. The Red Lions have never qualified for a major tournament in their history, but under Holtz they may feel they have a better chance of doing so than ever before, especially with the Nations League providing a potential way in through the back door. As such, it is important that they claim at least second spot in the group with as many points as they can possibly pick up. Having beaten Republic of Ireland away from home in March 2021, there is little reason why they can not to do so the same to Turkey this week.
Borussia Dortmund midfielder Salih Ozcan, who has made five appearances for Turkey since switching his allegiances from Germany earlier this year, will not be available after withdrawing from the squad due to swelling in his foot. With regular captain Hakan Calhanoglu not called up due to a hamstring issue, there is a clear void to fill in midfield, with Irfan Kahveci and Orkun Kokcu potentially filling it. In total, Kuntz has called nine different players up from his previous squad, although only Onur Bulut and Ismail Yuksek are awaiting their international debuts. Ozan Kabak, who has been in excellent form for Hoffenheim this season, could be favoured to Caglar Soyuncu at centre-back given the 26-year-old’s lack of game time with Leicester City.
Luxembourg, meanwhile, have brought six different players into their squad when compared to their previous selection, including veteran defender Lars Krogh Gerson. Fabio Lohei and Alessio Curci would make their international debuts should they be involved against Turkey, although Holtz may prefer to use them against Lithuania on Sunday given the amount riding on his side’s trip to Turkey.
Turkey possible starting lineup:
Bayindir; Celik, Kabak, Ayhan, Kadioglu; Kahveci, Kokcu; Under, Dervisoglu, Akturkoglu; Dursun
Luxembourg possible starting lineup:
Moris; Da Graca, Chanot, Carlson, Pinto; Barreiro, Gerson, Thill; Bohnert, Sinani, Rodrigues