Euro 2016 Previews: Turkey
Posted by Featured Articles | Published on May 19, 2016
It’s been eight years since Turkey were represented at a major tournament and after several disappointing qualifying campaigns; they are ready to make up for lost time. This is nothing new to the national team as following their third-placed finish at the 2002 World Cup they failed to follow this up by not qualifying for the next rendition or the intermediate European Championships in 2004. This blow was made all the more bitter by their arch-nemesis’, the Greeks, winning the aforementioned Euros.
It’s very difficult to forget the impact Turkey had in Austria and Switzerland; what with them qualifying from their group with a last-gasp Nihat Kahveci wonder strike to complete a comeback of the most dramatic nature against the Czech Republic. Then another last-gasp goal came against Croatia in the quarter-finals where Semih Senturk bagged in added time at the end of extra time as the Turks went on to win on penalties. The neutrals adopted team were victim to a cruel late goal against Germany in the semis as Phillip Lahm fired the Germans to the final.
The Turkish are optimistic in their hopes for the tournament with Oğuzhan Özyakup being especially bullish. The former Arsenal youth has declared that anything other than matching their position last time out will be a failure in an interview with FourFourTwo.
Fatih Terim is currently in his third stint as the Turkish national team manager. Having also been in charge for the Euro charge in 2008 will be confident in his abilities to exceed expectations at national level once again. Terim himself is a former international; picking up over a half-century of caps for the Turks. His playing career was spent at Adana Demirspor in his youth before he set off for Galatasaray at age 21. He played primarily as a centre-half at Galatasaray but preferred the role of a sweeper.
His first role in management came in 1987, so to say he is highly experienced is an understatement. He has managed clubs such as Fiorentina and AC Milan, but his greatest success at club level has come at Galatasaray (another job he has frequented three times). Terim is undoubtedly a legend at Galatasaray with his best spells as both a player and manager coming at Cim Bom. Some of his greatest accomplishments as a manager include winning six Super Lig’s, the Uefa Cup and guiding Turkey to a semi-final appearance at Euro 2008.
One thing Turkey has in abundance is creative midfielders. From Arda Turan to Hakan Calhanoglu, Nuri Sahin to Selcuk Inan or Hakan Calhanogulu to Oğuzhan Özyakup; Terim has a plethora of options to use going forward. These players will most likely play in an aesthetically pleasing way which will draw neutrals towards them and give them an even bigger boost. The Turks have a very strong mentality and will have a point to prove after not qualifying for a tournament in eight years. They also have players like Gokhan Tore coming back from injury which will provide another lift to Turkish morale. A cluster of players from Besiktas will be on a high as is after their spectacular Super Lig victory this season.
Turkey’s biggest flaw is their lack of an in-form forward going into the competition. Burak Yilmaz has been injured ever since he left Galatasaray for the Chinese Super League while second choice striker Cenk Tosun is only that for Besiktas as well, behind Germany’s Mario Gomez. Mevlut Erdinc (4 goals this season) and Yunus Malli (11 goals this season) are the other options to play up top and have a meagre 8 goals between them in a combined 41 appearances. Umut Bulut, who’s been a regular for Turkey in the follow-up of Euro 2008, has seen his season tail off after the death of his father in a terrorist attack in March this year so hasn’t made the squad. Don’t be surprised to see Hakan Calhanoglu played as a false 9 in a bid to mask their weaknesses with their strengths.
The Road to France
Turkey ended up getting to France by being the best third placed team in the qualifiers and thus didn’t have to go through a play-off to get into the full tournament. They ended up on 18 points, 4 off first and 2 off second. They were handed a tough draw with the Netherlands, Czech Republic (who they will face in the Euro’s) and Iceland; along with Kazakhstan and Latvia who proved not to be whipping boys.
Turkey’s campaign started awfully with only one point from their opening three games against Iceland, Czech Republic and Latvia. Turkey were seconds away from a win in Holland when Huntelaar scored a 92nd minute equaliser after Turkey had beat Kazakhstan 3-1. Another win and draw against Kazakhstan and Latvia followed leaving Turkey in a precarious position.
The Turks stuffed Netherlands 3-0 in Turkey ending their qualification hopes. They then went on to beat the Czechs and Iceland (thanks to a stoppage time Selcuk Inan winner) to ensure their participation in France. Burak Yilmaz was their top scorer in qualification with a below-average four goals.
Goalkeepers: Ali Şaşal Vural (Eskişehirspor), Harun Tekin (Bursaspor), Onur Kıvrak (Trabzonspor), Volkan Babacan (İstanbul Başakşehir).
Defenders: Gökhan Gönül (Fenerbahçe), Şener Özbayraklı (Fenerbahçe), Ahmet Çalık (Gençlerbirliği), Çağlar Söyüncü (Altınordu), Hakan Balta (Galatasaray), Mehmet Topal (Fenerbahçe), Semih Kaya (Galatasaray), Serdar Aziz (Bursaspor), Caner Erkin (Fenerbahçe), İsmail Köybaşı (Beşiktaş).
Midfielders: Emre Mor (Nordsjælland), Gökhan Töre (Beşiktaş), Volkan Şen (Fenerbahçe), Yasin Öztekin (Galatasaray), Hakan Çalhanoğu (Bayer Leverkusen), Mahmut Tekdemir (İstanbul Başakşehir), Nuri Şahin (Borussia Dortmund), Oğuzhan Özyakup (Beşiktaş), Ozan Tufan (Fenerbahçe), Selçuk İnan (Galatasaray), Alper Potuk (Fenerbahçe), Arda Turan (Barcelona), Olcay Şahan (Beşiktaş).
Forwards: Burak Yılmaz (Beijing Guoan), Cenk Tosun (Beşiktaş), Mevlüt Erdinç (Guingamp), Yunus Mallı (Mainz).
What Can We Expect?
In the most realistic terms we can expect to see the Turks in the knock-out stages of the competition – especially with the expanded format. They may have been handed a very tough group with Spain, Croatia and the Czech Republic but they should be good enough to at least achieve a strong 3rd place finish. The squad is very strong and will create a lot of chances. I expect them to go out in a very narrow 1-0 or 2-1 loss to the much fancied Belgians at the round of 16. However if they can all stick together and fight as a team, like they did in 2008, then there’s no limit to just how far or how good this team could be.