Turkey reached the semi-finals of Euro 2008 and the 2002 World Cup but their fans haven’t had much to cheer about in recent years. Can the Crescent Stars upset the odds at this summer’s European Championship finals?
Beating Les Bleus Helps Turkey Qualify in Style
Turkey lost 3-2 to Germany in a pulsating Euro 2008 semi-final clash in Basel but they crashed out at the group stage of Euro 2016 after losing their first two games to Croatia and Spain.
The Turks have been given another tricky draw at Euro 2020. They are
6/1 shots to top Group A, a section in which Italy are
5/9 favourites with Switzerland
9/2 and an improving young Wales side
Experienced coach Senol Gunes guided Turkey to automatic qualification as runners-up to France. They took four points off the world champions, beating Les Bleus 2-0 at home and drawing 1-1 in Paris.
Turkey’s only qualifying defeat was a 2-1 loss in Iceland and their defensive performances were outstanding with eight clean sheets in ten matches in Group H.
Gaffer Gunes Aiming to Bring Back the Glory Days
After booking their place at Euro 2020 in style, Turkey’s momentum stalled a little in the Nations League as they finished bottom of a group featuring Hungary, Russia and Serbia.
Their only win was a 3-2 victory over a Russia side reduced to ten men in the 24th minute but they showcased their attacking quality in a couple of 3-3 friendly draws against Germany and Croatia late last year.
Gunes is in his second spell in charge of the national team, having led Turkey to their third-placed finish at the 2002 World Cup.
That 2002 squad featured icons of Turkish football such as striker Hakan Sukur and goalkeeper Rustu Recber, as well as Leicester legend Muzzy Izzet, but there is also plenty of talent in the current crop.
Juventus youngster Merih Demiral and Leicester’s Caglar Soyuncu are among the options at centre-back and Soyuncu’s Foxes teammates Cengiz Under and AC Milan’s Hakan Calhanoglu provide the creativity and goals in midfield.
Striker Cenk Tosun has struggled to make an impact at Everton but he has a decent scoring record at international level, as does veteran Lille forward Burak Yilmaz.
Turks Shouldn’t Be Overawed by Tough Opener
Backers of Turkey at
100/1 to win Euro 2020 will get an early indication of their chances when Gunes’s side kick off the tournament against Italy in Rome.
It is a tough opening assignment but Italy have a reputation for starting their campaigns slowly and Turkey proved in recent clashes with France and Germany that they are not overawed by Europe’s top teams.
Much will depend on the form and fitness of Calhanoglu, who is a class act in the number-ten role behind the two strikers or playing off a lone frontman.
If Turkey’s defenders can recapture the form they showed in qualifying then they would be awkward knockout opponents and perhaps coach Gunes could deliver another big run at a major tournament.
*All odds correct at time of writing.