After the jubilation of promotion from UEFA Nations League D over a year-and-a-half ago, the Faroes are now in the big boys in League C in a group with Turkey, Lithuania and Luxembourg. Each team will play home and away against one another, with the top-ranking nation at the end gaining promotion to League B and the one finishing bottom relegated to League D.
First up is a trip to Istanbul to face Turkey tonight, a nation with a population 1624 times bigger (currently 86,073,858) than the diminutive Faroes (53,000). One of many great illustrations of how the plucky archipelago continues to punch above its weight on the international football scene.
The transcontinental country of Turkey has a rich footballing history, qualifying for three World Cups, including a third place at the 2002 FIFA World Cup. Currently, they are an inconsistent side but still possess several high-quality players such as Leicester’s Çağlar Söyüncü, Atalanta’s Merih Demiral, Marseille’s Cengiz Ünder, and the talisman and captain, Internazionale’s Hakan Çalhanoğlu.
Turkey will be aiming to kickstart a new era following a disappointing last 12 months, which saw them knocked out of the Euros group stage and fail to qualify for the World Cup after losing 3-1 to Portugal in the play-offs. Consequently, they are currently ranked a disappointing 43rd in FIFA rankings; however, they are still a monumental 81 places above the Faroe Islands, which truly illustrates the colossal task on hand for the plucky North Atlantic nation, and Turkey will go into this fixture as heavy favourites.
But in this crazy game of football, any outcome is possible. The last and only meeting of these 2 countries in 1991 is a prime example of this, ending in a shock 1-1 draw at Tórsvøllur in a Friendly match; thanks to an opening goal from the legendary Todi Jónsson, before Turkey equalised late on. And the Faroese players will be hoping to replicate these achievements on Saturday night.
In terms of team news, the Faroe Islands will be missing influential midfielder Brandur Hendriksson who will sadly miss the rest of the year with a knee injury (we wish Brandur a speedy recovery). A profound blow to the Faroes as Brandur has arguably been the nation’s best player over the last couple of years and main creative force. Also missing is exciting attacker Petur Knudsen, as well as the current number 1 goalkeeper Teitur Gestsson, so expect the experienced Gunnar Nielsen to deputise in his place.
It also must be noted that despite being included in the squad, it will be a huge ask for leading striker Jóan Símun Edmundsson to feature significantly due to being absent most of the year through injury.
Against such a dangerous opponent as Turkey, this Faroese team will be expected to set up organised defensively, frustrate the hosts, and offer a threat from breaks and set-pieces. Here is my possible line-up:
GK- Gunnar Nielsen
RB- René Shaki Joensen
CB- Odmar Færø
CB- Sonni Nattestad
LB- Viljormur Davidsen
CDM- Gunnar Vatnhamar
CM- Hallur Hansson (Captain)
CM- Sølvi Vatnhamar
LW- Meinhard Olsen
ST- Klæmint Olsen
RW- Gilli Rólantsson
A testing game in testing conditions at the hostile Başakşehir Fatih Terim Stadium and a draw would be heralded as a heroic result, but this game alone will not define the Faroe Islands Nation League campaign.
In reality, for the Faroe Islands just to survive in League C will be deemed a wonderful achievement, as the level and quality of this League is a huge step up from the relative minnows of League D.
And at the opposite end of the spectrum, Turkey has just dropped down from League B following a shock relegation in the 2020-21 edition, and with their firepower, will be heavy favourites to make a swift return.
So let’s cheer on the boys, and bask in Nation League C football for however long it may last!
The Faroe Islands will take on Turkey on Saturday, kicking off at 19:45 BST.