Turkey look forward to taking on Germany in Berlin
8 October ~ It is 20 years and five days to the day since Germany was reunited, yet populist right wing troublemakers like Thilo Sarrazin – the former finance senator for Berlin and executive board member of the Bundesbank, famous here for saying "Many Arabs and Turks have no productive function other than to sell fruit and veg” – aren't happy with the way things are going. Sarrazin's book Deutschland schafft sich ab (Germany is getting rid of itself), published earlier this year, was in direct contrast to the alternate view of an integrated country shown by the country's footballers in their sparkling run to the World Cup semi-finals. Stars like Mesut Özil, Sami Khedira and Miroslav Klöse became posterboys for the new Germany.
So what does that mean for tonight's Euro 2012 qualifier between Germany and Turkey? This is a fixture between the two best teams in Group A and a reprise of the 2008 semi-final, but it's here in Berlin, the city with the largest population of Turks outside the country itself. When the group was drawn there was a debate about whether holding the fixture in the Olympic Stadium was such a good idea. After all, when the teams met in Munich in 1999 the place was awash with red and the German players were whistled to the heavens with every touch. The latest encounter, it was said, might turn into another tricky away fixture for Jogi Löw's side.
These arguments have been pushed aside, however. There is tension in the air, but mostly of a sporting naure. Turkey have never won a competitive fixture in Germany and with Guus Hiddink in charge they see it as a real opportunity for a first victory. The only hostilities so far came when Hiddink had to throw out a number of Turkish fans from his own training session in Babelsberg for being too noisy. He merely says that that the huge numbers of away fans expected tonight "will not be a disadvantage".
In the absence of Bastian Schweinsteiger, his Bayern team-mate Toni Kroos will have a chance to stake his case for the central midfield place, while there are doubts about whether Holger Badstuber will be able to improve on his miserable form so far this year. The main questions for Turkey are whether they will miss Galatasaray playmaker Arda Turan as much as they think they might and if Hiddink has had enough time to get Turkey playing in his favoured high-energy style. Most of the Turks I know want to win badly, but these are the same guys who were dancing in the street after Germany had destroyed England and Argentina in the summer. As always in this city, whatever happens will be spectacular. Jacob Sweetman
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