Turkey were rewarded with a win after an enterprising and committed performance against the USA in their opening match of the FIFA Confederations Cup France 2003 at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard in Saint Etienne on Thursday 19 June. DaMarcus Beasley opened the scoring for the equally impressive Americans but Turkey kept their nerve and in the end their greater flair and attacking thrust saw them home. Okan Yilmaz equalized and Tuncay Sanli hit the winner to record the first European success over a CONCACAF side in the history of the competition.
This was an unfamiliar Turkish line-up; on top of the established stars left out of the squad for various reasons, coach Senol Gunes opted to leave out two of his mainstays from last year’s FIFA World Cup escapade, Yildiray Basturk and Recber Rustu. Brian McBride was the most notable absentee from the US teamsheet.
The Turks were straight onto the front foot, defending high up the park and pushing the Americans back. Okan Ylimaz was first to threaten Tim Howard’s goal, sneaking in behind the defence to hit a sweet shot with the outside of his left foot. The US keeper’s save was superb (13’). Yildirim Ahmet was then left holding his head in his hands after his cunning free kick came back off the woodwork (23’).
The large Turkish contingent in the crowd were in full voice by now, but just as the red and whites seemed set to dominate, Landon Donovan streaked clear on the left and crossed exquisitely for DaMarcus Beasley to head home at the back post (0:1, 37’). Bruce Arena’s boys were ahead, and had they held that lead until half-time, the outcome may have been quite different. As it was, Tuncay Sanli nipped in between two defenders, brought a tricky high ball down and was sent crashing to the floor by Greg Vanney. Okan Yilmaz kept his composure to stroke the penalty home (1:1, 39’).
Both sides were more circumspect at the start of the second period. Selcuk Sahin did find Gokdeniz Karadeniz in a dangerous position in the box, but Greg Vanney got in a vital block to clear (51’). Turkey then had a lot of the ball for a while without creating much, until Sanli decided to take matters into his own hands. A quick one-two with his strike partner Volkan Arslan bought him some space. The man from Fenerbache then broke into the box, rounded Howard and slotted the ball home from a tight angle! (2 : 1, 70’)
The Americans responded by bringing on Clint Mathis, and the ploy nearly worked when the golden boy got away from Alpay Ozalan to strike on goal. His first effort was blocked and his second attempt headed off the line by Bulent Korkmaz (77’). A valiant effort from the Americans then, who tired towards the end but never gave up. The result means they need at least a draw against Brazil in their second match. Turkey, meanwhile, can secure a place in the last four of a FIFA competition in consecutive years if they beat Cameroon in their next encounter.