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International Friendly Preview: Turkey v Latvia

Goals will be the focus for Turkey when they host Latvia in an international friendly in preparation for World Cup qualifiers later this year.

Turkey sit fourth in Group D of the UEFA World Cup qualifying pools, four points adrift of second-placed Hungary and 11 behind leaders the Netherlands.

And, if they are to have any chance of reaching Brazil 2014, they need to improve their record in front of goal.

In their past four World Cup qualifiers, Turkey have only won once, scoring at a rate of just a goal per game.

Burak Yilmaz, who has scored 24 times in 30 league matches for Galatasaray this season, notched two of those goals for Turkey.

But with an international record of just eight goals in 25 matches, Yilmaz needs to step up for his country if they are to reach next year’s showpiece in South America, while Turkey’s head coach Abdullah Avci will most likely be looking for another genuine option up front in this week’s friendlies versus both Latvia and Slovenia.

Avci should be confident of victory against Latvia, although Turkey have failed to win in their past two encounters with the Baltic country.

Latvia played a friendly international away to Qatar on Thursday and lost 3-1, while they have only a solitary victory in their past eight games, with that coming against lowly Liechtenstein last October.

Avci has generally selected Yilmaz up front alongside fellow Galatasaray forward Umut Bulut (three goals in 23 internationals), but the latter has not been picked in the squad to face Latvia and Slovenia, which points to a possible change in mentality.

Rennes striker Mevlut Erding could be the answer for Avci, having hit the back of the net 13 times in 36 games for the French club this season, while Turkey will also be looking for more goals from Atletico Madrid attacking midfielder Arda Turan.

Latvia’s key player will be 27-year-old winger Jurijs Zigajevs, who scored the goal in their loss to Qatar.

Sun 26 May, 2013
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