Ayhan equaliser forces France to wait for Euro 2020 spot
Paris (AFP) –
France drew 1-1 with Turkey in Euro 2020 qualifying on Monday in a match played against a backdrop of diplomatic and security tensions after Paris condemned Ankara for its military offensive against Kurdish forces in Syria.
Substitute Olivier Giroud headed in from a corner to put France ahead on 76 minutes at the Stade de France but Kaan Ayhan nodded in an equaliser six minutes later to keep Turkey top of Group H on the head-to-head rule.
France can qualify for the finals with a win at home to Moldova next month while Turkey would clinch their place by avoiding defeat against third-placed Iceland, who are four points back after beating Andorra 2-0.
Wissam Ben Yedder replaced Giroud, Friday's goalscorer in the 1-0 win away to Iceland, while Lucas Hernandez returned at left-back at the expense of Lucas Digne as France sought to avenge their 2-0 loss to Turkey in Konya from June.
Turkey were without injured veteran captain Emre Belozoglu, who damaged ribs during a last-gasp 1-0 victory at home to Albania last week, with Leicester defender Caglar Soyuncu starting in place of Ayhan.
Police ramped up security at the Stade de France amid fears of violence, with around 3,800 Turkish in the designated away section but many more seated elsewhere in the ground among the 78,000 spectators.
France were deeply unhappy when Turkish supporters whistled over the French national anthem when the two countries met in the Turkish city of Konya in June. This time 'La Marseillaise' was applauded by the away fans.
While Antoine Griezmann has yet to properly settle at Barcelona this season, the forward emerged at the heart of France's best moments in the first half as Turkey were forced to absorb constant pressure.
- Gunok excels in goal -
Bayern Munich team-mates Lucas Hernandez and Kingsley Coman combined superbly to release Griezmann on the quarter-hour, but Turkey goalkeeper Mert Gunok blocked well before producing a magnificent save to repel Moussa Sissoko's follow-up effort.
Griezmann then headed a Coman cross directly at Gunok who plunged to his left moments later after a clever dummy from the striker created another opening for Sissoko.
Without a goal for France in the past five qualifiers, Griezmann again went close when he curled wide of a sprawling Gunok and the far post from the edge of the area.
Turkey coach Senol Gunes introduced Hakan Calhanoglu at the break to provide more of an attacking threat, with the AC Milan playmaker helping create the visitors' best chance on the hour.
Ayhan came on in the 53rd minute for injured Zeki Celik.
Moments after a Griezmann penalty appeal was dismissed, Turkey exposed France on the counter with Calhanoglu teeing up Burak Yilmaz who drilled over with just Steve Mandanda to beat.
Didier Deschamps turned to Giroud for the final 20 minutes and was instantly rewarded as the Chelsea striker powered in a Griezmann corner for his 38th France goal, moving him three shy of Michel Platini on the French all-time scoring list.
Ayhan denied France qualification on the night as he planted a thumping header low beyond Mandanda from a Calhanoglu free-kick, an equaliser celebrated with a military salute in front of the travelling fans.
European football's governing body UEFA, which prohibits to political gestures on the pitch, had already said it will examine reports of Turkish players performing the salute in the wake of Cenk Tosun's late winner against Albania.
© 2019 AFP