France host Turkey in a crunch Euro 2020 qualifier on Monday with the teams vying for the top spot in Group H and diplomatic tension simmering between the two nations after Turkey’s bombardment of Syrian Kurds this week.
With three games to go in the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign, the sides have 18 points each ahead of Monday’s showdown at the Stade de France but Turkey top the group on the head-to-head rule after their 2-0 defeat of Les Blues in Konya in June.
French striker Olivier Giroud says the 2018 world champions “want to put that right (the defeat), as a matter of pride because of what happened over there”.
France will be missing two key players in Kylian Mbappe and Paul Pogba, who are both injured, and will be hoping Barcelona recruit Antoine Griezmann can refind his sharpest form.
Looming large over the game, however, will be security issues and international diplomatic relations as France decried Turkish military interventions in Syria this week and blocked arms sales to them.
European soccer chiefs Uefa are already looking into reports that Turkey footballers performed a military salute in celebration of Cenk Tosun’s last-gasp winning goal over Albania in Istanbul on Friday.
After the match, a photo was also posted on the official Twitter account with players making a military salute and a text saying the players “have dedicated their victory to our brave soldiers and fellow martyrs”.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan can often be seen at football matches and has taken many photo calls with top soccer stars, and on Monday evening his ambassador to France and sports minister are due to attend the match.
Some 3 800 Turkish fans should be in the 78 000 sell-out crowd on Monday for a match where a win for France would signal a spot in the finals while Turkey is still under threat from Iceland, who they play in November.
At any event at the Stade de France, security is always impressively tight. On Turkey’s last visit to France in 2009, their famously passionate fans threw flares onto the pitch in Lyon.
The government has qualified the event as high risk and ordered the police to ramp up security measures ahead of and following the game.
On 13 November 2015 – the night of a series of terror attacks that killed 130 people – security prevented a suicide bomber from entering the Stade de France during a France v Germany match which was being watched by French President Francois Hollande.
The bomber and two other suicide bombers set off their bombs outside the ground, killing themselves and one bystander.