Turkey don’t qualify for international tournaments often but when they do the Crescent-Stars tend to do remarkably well. The biggest surprise of the 2002 World Cup was the Turkish national team finishing third. Six-years later the Red-Whites made it to the semi-finals of Euro 2008 and since then have failed to qualify for any World Cup or European Championships until now.
The 2008 side were heralded as the ‘comeback kings’ coming from behind against Switzerland, Czech Republic and Croatia to record memorable victories. The same title could be applied to the current Turkish side which also happens to be coached by the Emperor himself Fatih Terim. The empire almost crumbled before it even got off the ground. Turkey were pummelled by Iceland followed by the Czech Republic before drawing with Latvia and found themselves joint last, level with Kazakhstan, three games in. At that stage it really did seem unfathomable that Terim’s boys could even end the group in fourth place. It looked curtains.
Turkey had a 2.7 percent chance of making the summer tournament going into the penultimate Czech game but were in high spirits having just beat the Netherlands 3-0. The Crescent-Stars managed to beat the Czech’s but still had it all to do against leaders Iceland. The scores were level until a last-gasp free-kick from Selçuk İnan gave Turkey the lead and direct entry to the tournament in France.
Euro 2016 is just around the corner and excitement is brewing, although odds makers don’t favour Turkey to win the championship the tournament never disappoints. In fact Turkey are priced at 80/1 which is a tad unfair considering Terim’s boys are unbeaten in their last 10 games. Make no mistake this team has a lot of quality especially in midfield. Talent wise this has to be one of the strongest sides in recent history. The likes of Barcelona star Arda Turan, Bayer Leverkusen free-kick maestro Hakan Çalhanoğlu and recent Turkish national team convert Yunus Mallı of Mainz are an example of the quality Turkey have in midfield.
Terim may be spoilt for choice in the centre of the park but he has more pressing concerns up-front. Burak Yılmaz is the only real option but the head coach may experiment with Mallı as a forward or experiment with Beşiktaş striker Cenk Tosun and Manchester City youngster Enes Ünal.
Defensively Terim has still not worked out his best centre-back pair. Ideally he would like to have Bayer defender Ömer Toprak in the side but following the gun-slinging showdown at a hotel with teammate Gökhan Töre he has been reluctant to play for the national team. Terim does have more options out wide with the likes of full-backs Caner Erkin, Gökhan Gönül and İsmail Koybaşı all in impressive form.
Turkey may not be favourites but they should be considered dark horses.