Turkey snatched automatic qualification for Euro 2016 as the best third-placed team with a last-gasp goal to secure a 1-0 win at home to Iceland thanks to Selçuk İnan’s freekick on Oct. 13.
The Turks, who finished with 10 men after midfielder Gökhan Töre was shown a straight red card after 77 minutes for a shocking challenge on Jon Dadi Bodvarsson, had to wait until the 89th minute for İnan to score from 25 meters.
Turkey finished with 18 points ahead of the Netherlands on 13, after the Dutch suffered a 3-2 home defeat by the Czech Republic who won Group A with 22 points, two ahead of Iceland. The Turks edged Hungary for the best third-place finish.
“As a country we really needed this win to feel happy, even for a few hours maybe. We are so happy to have offered some happiness to our people,” said coach Fatih Terim.
“We have a younger team now, and it’s making us even more proud that this young bunch achieved this,” he added, saying Turkey will go to Euro 2016 with an even younger squad.
Iceland, having already won a place at next year’s finals in France, failed to cause the Turkey defense much trouble and had to settle for second place in the group, leaving the home fans to celebrate amid jubilant scenes on the pitch in Konya.
Delighted Turkey captain and midfielder Arda Turan said: “We made such a poor start to the group. But we believed, we fought, and we succeeded. We are so delighted not to have disappointed our people who never gave up on us.”
Turkey finished as the best third-placed team above Hungary, who lost 4-3 in Greece on Oct. 12, because Kazakhstan won 1-0 away to Latvia and moved above it into fifth on the head-to-head.
The best third-place team was decided by the points it obtained in matches against the first, second, fourth and fifth-placed teams in its group.
Turkey drew twice with Latvia but beat Kazakhstan twice and the points it got from the Kazakhs meant the country finished on 16 in the best third-placed teams’ table to beat Hungary by a point.