After a topsy-turvy campaign that saw them seal a last-minute automatic spot at the finals as the best third-placed team, Turkey are feeling bullish. In 1996, they were inexperienced. In 2000, they were unlucky. In 2008, they were the tournament’s most exciting team. Now they’re eyeing an unlikely run to the final.
Lesson from qualifying
Don’t be blasé. Turkey anticipated fighting it out for first place, but began with one point from their opening three qualifying games. Three wins to nil during their run-in, against the Dutch, the Czech Republic and – thanks to an 89th-minute winner – Iceland, got them over the line. Just.
Coach Fatih Terim has top-level creative players such as Hakan Calhanoglu and captain Arda Turan at his disposal.
Goals. Burak Yilmaz got injured after signing for Beijing Guoan and Cenk Tosun is only backup for Mario Gomez at Besiktas.
Most likely to…
Field 10 midfielders. With a lack of decent central defenders or reliable strikers, Turkey’s middle men could find themselves deployed anywhere.
Least likely to…
Nod one in. Turkey are a team of short-arses and just two of their 14 goals in qualifying came from headers.
What they hope will happen
Despite being drawn in a group with holders Spain, the Turks are confident of progressing deep into the tournament.
What will happen
A painful, narrow last-16 exit to Belgium.
Key player - Arda Turan
He has long been the standout player of this team, and since signing for Barça Turan has improved his leadership skills. He’s one of three current Turkey stars who played at
Euro 2008, and his experience will be invaluable for the youngsters in the squad.
Manager - Fatih Terim
This is Turkey’s fourth European Championship appearance and Terim’s third in charge. Having reached the semis in 2008, he won’t be satisfied until he hears the Turkish national anthem at the Stade de France on July 10.
Q&A - Oguzhan Ozyakup
How do you rate Turkey’s chances?
We’re a tournament team. Only at Euro 96 did we not qualify from the group stage. Last time we played in the Euros, in 2008, we qualified for the semi-finals, and we have to try and repeat that. If we can’t, we will be unsuccessful in my view.
How excited are you about your first major tournament?
I’m counting down the days. Most of my team-mates will be playing in their first tournament too, and in Europe there are lots of Turkish people so I expect to see them in the stands supporting us.
You’ve been drawn against Spain, Croatia and the Czech Republic, whom you faced in qualifying and in Euro 2008, when you came from 2-0 down after 75 minutes to win in your last group game…
Spain will be led by one of the best playmakers around in Andres Iniesta, but Arda Turan knows him well and will give us hints on how to stop him. It’s a nice coincidence to play the last game of the group against the Czech Republic again. Psychologically it will give us more strength to play against them then.
Fixtures and results
June 12, Croatia - Paris, 9pm
June 18, Spain - Nice, 3am
June 22, Czech Republic - Lens, 3am
HOW THEY QUALIFIED
Best third-placed team
vs Iceland (A) 0-3
vs Czech Rep (H) 1-2
vs Latvia (A) 1-1
vs Kazakhstan (H) 3-1
vs Netherlands (A) 1-1
vs Kazakhstan (A) 1-0
vs Latvia (H) 1-1
vs Netherlands (H) 3-0
vs Czech Rep (A) 2-0
vs Iceland (H) 1-0
EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP RECORD
1996 Group stage
Words and interview Recep Ozerin
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