After storming home against tricky opposition in qualification, Turkey find themselves in a tough group. Is there enough quality to repeat their 2008 heroics?
Actually not too shabby at all. Until their friendly defeat to England, they had been on a run of 13 games without a loss. After a slow start in qualifying (where they picked up just one point from their opening three games), Turkey picked up speed and surged home. They won their final three games of qualifying (against the top three from their group, Iceland, Czech Republic and The Netherlands) to oust the latter from the last ticket to France. Their success was built on a miserly defence that conceded just six goals for the rest of the campaign following their opening 3-0 loss to Iceland.
This is Turkey’s third finals, and the one constant has been the presence of Fatih Terim at the helm. The popular 62-year-old made his coaching bow for Turkey in 1993 and led them to a first Euros appearance in 1996. Even though they lost all three of their games, Terim left the post with his popularity in tact and returned for the 2008 finals. They memorably overcame injuries and multiple deficits to reach the semi-finals, despite only leading games for a total of 13 minutes throughout the tournament. Terim again departed after the finals, but he has returned for a third time in an effort to further cement his legacy
Quality in the final third could well be what pushes Turkey into the next round. Arda Turan may have endured a frustrating spell in Barcelona, but before the move he was one of the continent’s best wingers and if he can rediscover that form, there will be trouble for Turkey’s opponents. Bayer Leverkusen starlet Hakan Calhanoglu has already flashed his ample potential and the 22-year-old could use the tournament as a chance to really make his mark. Oghuzan Ozyukap is the team’s playmaker and showed in qualifying what a talent he is, dictating the midfield and demonstrating he is capable of dazzling runs. There is also strength at the back, with Serdar Aziz and Hakan Balta commanding a tough defence that only conceded six goals after the opening 3-0 loss to Iceland.
Despite possessing a decent squad, the team is somewhat lacking in star quality, Turan aisde. If Turkey’s talisman fails to fire, they could be looking at an early exit. Despite the defence’s stellar qualification campaign, there are still question marks over their consistency, while some of their critics believe the team is not physical enough to compete with the best nations. Against England, the Turks showed that while they are technically talented, they lacked the strength to compete with the Three Lions physically and were never able to take control of the game and dictate terms. A lack of a clear cut first choice striker may also prove problematic, as scoring was something of an issue in qualifying and goals can be hard to come by at major tournaments.
Predicted Finish – Round of 16
Finding themselves in a tough group, Turkey will have to start fast in order to make it out alive. With Spain and Croatia favourites to qualify automatically, most people expect Turkey to jostle with the Czech Republic for the chance to go through as one of the best third-placed teams. It is imperative they get at least a point from their opening two games with the two favourites, although they would ideally want two draws. Should they avoid back-to-back defeats, Turkey will be set up nicely for a winner-takes-all clash with the Czech Republic, with the prize a place in the knockout stage.