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FOOTBALL

Turkey victory sees Greece bow out

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Tuemer Metin celebrates the goal that helped put Turkey into the play-offs

TIRANA, Albania -- Turkey have secured a place in the World Cup playoffs after beating Albania 1-0 in the last of their Group Two qualifying matches.

Tuemer Metin's 57th minute goal was enough to give Turkey victory, guaranteeing them second place ahead of European champions Greece - who beat Georgia 1-0 and Denmark, 2-1 victors in Kazhakstan.

Greece went into the game needing to win but also needed the Turks and Denmark to slip up.

With a new-look attack featuring Vangelis Mantzios and Dimitris Salpingidis, Greece got the first chance in the fourth minute but Salpingidis' header was deflected wide.

The much-needed goal arrived 13 minutes later when Yourkas Seitaridis crossed deep from the right for Dimitris Papadopoulos to head past keeper Nukri Revishvili.

With the hosts attacking in waves in search of a second goal, Georgia found space and could have scored but Levan Kobiashvili's 13th minute lob hit the crossbar and Kakha Kaladze's low drive from two meters was saved 12 minutes later.

The victory proved hollow though as the results from elswehere confirmed that 15 months after being crowned champions of Europe, Greece would finish fourth behind Denmark, Turkey and group winners Ukraine.

It is only the third time that that the reigning European champions have failed to qualify for the World Cup finals.

Czechoslavakia missed out on a place in Argentina in 1978 and Denmark failed to reach the United States in 1994.

Turkey dominant

In Tirana, Turkey dominated the second half and Halil Altintop could have put them ahead a minute after the break but shot over the bar from close range. However, they did not have to wait long before Metin's low shot found the back of the net.

"We now hope to go to Germany," said Turkish coach Fatih. "We played badly in the first half but we changed our game and the goal helped us control things," he added.

Albania striker Erion Bogdani missed two good chances in the first half, the second when keeper Volkan Demirel let the ball slip from his grasp after catching a corner.

One consolation for Albania is that under German coach Hans-Peter Briegel, they have improved - and took 13 points from their 12 matches, their best ever tally in World Cup or European Championship qualifiers.

Meanwhile, In Almaty, Michael Gravgaard put the Danes in front after 46 minutes and Jon Dahl Tomasson headed their second goal two minutes later.

Aleksandr Kuchma pulled a goal back in the 86th minute for bottom of the table Kazakhstan, who had Igor Avdeev sent off with two minutes left.

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