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  1. Match Preview: Netherlands vs Turkey

    Netherlands look to take a step closer to qualifying for Euro 2016 when they host Turkey at the Amsterdam Arena on Saturday.

    The qualifying campaign has been far from smooth so far for Guus Hiddink’s side, with Netherlands currently sitting third in the group, six points behind leaders Czech Republic, and three behind Iceland. A win against 4th placed Turkey is a must if Netherlands are to get their target of finishing top of the group.

    Hiddink’s preparations have been hampered by the injuries to captain Robin van Persie, and star player Arjen Robben, which has forced the coach to rethink his starting eleven. Four-four-two has been tried during training with Bas Dost partnering Klaas jan Huntelaar, but Hiddink is set to stick to a 4-3-3 with the latter being flanked by PSV’s Luciano Narsingh and Ibrahim Afellay. PSV winger and Eredivisie top scorer Memphis Depay is set to start on the bench

    For a year between 2010-11 Hiddink was coach of Turkey, and in his press conference he looked back, “In my time as coach of Turkey, I have worked with half of the current selection. We just missed the European Championships. They are good players, but sometimes it was chaotic. Sometimes there are quite a lot of emotions.”

    Netherlands have never lost a Euro qualifier on home soil in 51 attempts, and although Van Persie and Robben are missing, a number of stars including Huntelaar will feel its their time to shine. Wesley Sneijder will captain the Oranje.

    Expected Netherlands line-up: Cillessen, Van der Wiel, Blind, Martins Indi, De Vrij, De Jong, Clasie, Sneijder, Afellay, Narsingh, Huntelaar

    Like Netherlands, Turkey have also had a poor start to their qualifying campaign, with only one win from their opening four games (against Kazahkstan) leaving them fourth. Coach Fatih Terim has been forced to travel to Netherlands without Atletico Madrid star Arda Turan who is suspended, but Feyenoord forward Colin Kazim Richards is set to start for his country for the first time since 2011.

    Terim believes his side are going to the Netherlands to win, “We’re talking about the number three in the World Cup. I have said about their qualities, but we are not afraid. We have nothing to lose, because we have already lost too much … That is why we must go to win. ”

    Netherlands and Turkey have met ten times, with the Dutch coming out on top five times, three draws and Turkey winning twice. The last meeting in Netherlands was during the 2014 World Cup qualifying with the Oranje triumphing 2-0 thanks to goals from Robin van Persie and Luciano Narsingh.

  2. England vs Lithuania: Euro 2016 Qualifying
    Harry Kane

    Ahead of Friday's clash between England and Lithuania at Wembley, Joe Hart has urged Harry Kane not to leave his under-21 career behind.

    The Tottenham forward has been the find of the 2014-15 Premier League season and is currently tied with Diego Costa as the division's top scorer with 19 goals.

    At 21 years old, Kane remains eligible to play in England's youth ranks and, with the European Under-21 Championship to take place in June, goalkeeper Hart has urged his new team-mate not to rule out a return.

    "I loved my time with the under-21s," said Hart. "We had a great thing going and, from what I understand speaking to Jack [Butland, the England under-21 captain], it is the same thing going on right now with the under-21s. 

    "It is the place where they want to be and they want to win the tournament. I can only speak from my personal experiences and I really enjoyed the two tournaments that I went to. 

    "It was a little bit different for me - I wasn't really knocking on the door for a starting place in the first-team. I had little bits of experiences with the first team but it never crossed my mind that I wouldn't be involved in the summer. 

    "I can't speak for Harry [Kane] but I'd imagine he would be very excited to represent his country in the summer.

    "There is so much to gain from playing in the tournaments, apart from the sheer enjoyment of playing tournament football for your country at a very high level against high-quality players. 

    "I think we have all seen the blueprint of Germany. That is quite inspirational and I am sure [England under-21 manager] Gareth Southgate will be alluding to that when he talks about drawing people to play for his U21 side."

    England have won all four of their Group E fixtures so far and sit six points clear of second-placed Slovenia.

    Lithuania are tied on six points with Slovenia and Switzerland but, after opening their campaign with back-to-back victories, have lost their last two matches without scoring.

    England will be without Daniel Sturridge (hip) and Adam Lallana (groin) after the pair withdrew from the squad earlier this week, but Ryan Mason could join Tottenham colleague Kane in making his full international debut.

    Aston Villa's Fabian Delph is battling to overcome illness ahead of Friday's fixture.

  3. France wary of more balanced Brazil
    Geoffrey Kondogbia

    France Geoffrey Kondogbia insisted facing Brazil was still a thrill despite the South American nation's embarrassing exit at last year's World Cup.

    Brazil were thrashed 7-1 by Germany in the semi-finals before going down 3-0 to Netherlands in the third-place play-off in front of their home fans.

    The appointment of Dunga as coach has helped turn their fortunes around with six straight wins heading into Thursday's encounter in France.

    Kondogbia said Dunga's Brazil was different to the one under Luiz Felipe Scolari.

    "Despite their defeat during the World Cup, Brazil remains a great nation of football," the Monaco midfielder said.

    "If you look at them today, they are doing quite well. That's a new team. It is a more balanced team. They were able to keep some great offensive players.

    "In my opinion, that's still the Brazil we have always known."

    In Dunga's second stint at the helm, Brazil have beaten the likes of Japan (4-0), Argentina (2-0) and Colombia (1-0) – conceding just one goal in six matches.

    Tremoulinas said the 51-year-old had made Brazil a far more balanced side.

    "Playing against Brazil is very enjoyable. It's a great football nation. It is mythical," the Sevilla defender said.

    "In regards of Dunga, since he came, the team has changed a lot. They found a much better balance defensively. They still are among the great offensive sides.

    "Since Dunga is a head coach, they won six games in a row...It's going to be a huge game on Thursday night."

  4. Morata set for first competitive start
    Alvaro Morata

    Alvaro Morata is in line to make his first competitive start for Spain against Ukraine on Thursday after Diego Costa withdrew from Vicente Del Bosque's squad.

    The Juventus striker has been in fine form for the Italian champions this season, scoring 11 goals in all competitions - including two in his last two.

    And Morata's rise looks set to continue on the international stage this week, with the 22-year-old likely to lead the line for his country in Seville as regular starter Costa has a hamstring injury.

    Del Bosque will hope Morata can transfer his club form into the international arena, with Spain sitting second in Group C - three points adrift of leaders Slovakia and level with Ukraine.

    Spain have lost three of their six matches since their ignominious World Cup exit, but their home record in competitive games remains impressive.

    Avoiding defeat against Ukraine would extend their unbeaten record on home soil to 30 matches, with their last competitive defeat in Spain coming against Greece way back in June 2003.

    Ukraine should not be underestimated, though, with Mikhail Formenko's side having only lost three of their last 25 fixtures.

    Defensive solidity has been one of the main reasons behind Ukraine's strong form, with Formenko's men conceding just five goals in that time - three of which came in a World Cup qualifier to France in November 2013.

    Like Del Bosque with Costa, Formenko has had to deal with a late withdrawal from his squad after Sergiy Sydorchuk suffered an injury during Dynamo Kyiv's UEFA Europa League clash with Everton.

    Dynamo have eight other players in the squad travelling to Spain, with forward Andriy Yarmolenko looking to add the three goals he has already scored in qualifying.

    "We prepare in exactly the same way for every opponent," the 25-year-old told. "We'll dedicate an hour to watching them. 

    "It was the same for San Marino, we watched four or five of their games, so for Spain we'll watch even more. 

    "We know Spain very well and how difficult it will be against them."

  5. Conte welcomes naturalised Italians
    Antonio Conte

    Italy coach Antonio Conte was forced to defend his selection of two foreign-born players in his latest international squad.

    Conte introduced Brazil-born Eder (Sampdoria) and midfielder Franco Vazquez (Palermo), who was born in Argentina, to his squad to face Bulgaria and England.

    Critics, such as Inter boss Roberto Mancini, have hit out at the inclusion of players not born on Italian soil, but Conte said it was a sign of the progressive times.

    "What I can say - I'm not the first manager and very luckily I won't be the last to select these naturalised players," the former Juventus coach said. 

    "In the past it already happened that some naturalised players played with the national team. 

    "Mauro Camoranesi for instance, who was world champion in 2006, or I think of [Cristian] Ledesma, [Gabriel] Paletta, Thiago Motta, Amauri, Romulo.

    "Then if we look at the last World Cup for example, of the 736 players that went to the World Cup, 83 of them were naturalised. 

    "These are the rules and this is football nowadays."

    Conte added he did not force either of Eder or Vazquez to wear the Italy shirt, and included them in the squad as he felt they were the best options to bolster the team.

    Italy have a Euro 2016 qualifier against Bulgaria in Sofia on Saturday, followed by a friendly against England at Juventus Stadium on Tuesday.

    "I never forced anybody to play for Italy," Conte said.

    "When I went to visit some clubs I didn't talk personally with these players to influence their decisions, I wanted them to feel inside the desire of playing for the Italian national team and most importantly I don't want players choosing to play for Italy only because they wouldn't be selected for the national team of the country where they were born. 

    "Having said that, Vazquez and Eder are two players who are playing very, very well in this championship. 

    "I wanted to test them already a month ago when we were supposed to have a session, but it wasn't possible so I decided to call them to see how they fit with the rest of the team. 

    "I think that they are two players who can add something important to this team."

    Conte said it was a message to younger naturalised Italians that they can, too, aim for international honours.

    "I think that only the best players should play for the national team, and I believe no player should hope to be selected for the luck of good players," he said.

    "This is the message I want to send to young and even younger players. 

    "The national team is made of the best players, and every player has to show they are one of the best."

    Inter coach Mancini had said only players born in Italy should play for the country.

    "I don't know if it's right or not selecting naturalised players in the national team, it depends on what kind of naturalised player they are," he said.

    "I think that the Italian national team should play only players born in Italy, like what happens in other countries. This is my idea at least."

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