Fatih Terim couldn’t get them home. The third-time Turkey boss, appointed in August, had led the team to three straight wins and second in Group D. A win at home on Tuesday against the Dutch would complete their remarkable comeback and send the team into UEFA’s playoffs. When Terim came on board, Turkey sat fourth.
It wasn’t meant to be. The Netherlands, undefeated in qualifying, went up through Arjen Robben after eight minutes, giving the Dutch the 1-0 lead they’d take into halftime. Two minutes into the second half, Galatasaray playmaker Wesley Sneijder doubled the visitors’ advantage. Unable to dent the Dutch’s edge, Turkey’s turnaround ends one win short, the Netherlands taking a 2-0 win out of Istanbul.
The result means the Dutch finish qualifying undefeated, 9-1-0, at the top of Group D. It also means Romania, a team that lost at home to Turkey last month, goes into the playoffs. While they’ll be one of the sides the seeded teams won’t mind drawing, Romania will get the same opportunity Slovenia got four years ago when they upset Russia en route to South Africa. Victor Pițurcă’s team has a chance to return to the World Cup for the first time since 1998.
For Turkey, they accomplished all they could have reasonably hoped for when Terim was appointed. They salvaged their pride. Whereas they were behind the Netherlands, Romania, and Hungary when Abdullah Avcı was replaced, they end qualification knowing only a slow start (not their final quality) kept them from playing into November.
Winning in Romania was surprise enough. Toppling the Dutch may have been too fairy tale-esque. Having won three-of-four since Terim came onboard, Turkey’s reestablished who they were.
That’s no consolation when it comes to Brazil, but it will give the team direction when it comes time to start qualifying for Euro 2016.