This article is part of the Guardian’s Euro 2016 Experts’ Network, a cooperation between some of the best media organisations from the countries who have qualified for France. theguardian.com is running previews from three countries each day in the run-up to the tournament kicking off on 10 June.
Fatih Terim has mainly deployed a 4-2-3-1 formation but he has experimented at times with a 4-4-1-1 and 4-3-3. “The Emperor” has moved on from most of the old guard with a few notable exceptions such as Arda Turan, Gokhan Gonul and Mehmet Topal.
Turkey could not have got their Euro 2016 qualifiers off to a worse start. Terim’s team were joint bottom, level with Kazakhstan, three games into their qualifying group. The team were disjointed, lacked cohesion and, most surprising of all for a team coached by Terim, they lacked spirit. Despite almost becoming public enemy No1, Terim persisted in promising things would improve. And they did … drastically.
In their final three games Turkey beat Holland 3-0 and then took care of business against Czech Republic in Prague, winning 2-0, but Terim’s side still needed to win against Iceland and hope the Czechs drew with or beat the Dutch. The Czechs did their part with a 3-2 win but Turkey were drawing 0-0 at home to Iceland until the 90th minute when the captain, Inan, scored a last-gasp free-kick to book a place at Euro 2016.
The team have started to gel and Terim has a rough idea of his strongest side. The two central midfielders are likely to be the Galatasaray captain, Inan, and the 20-year-old Fenerbahce rising star Ozan Tufan. Inan has an impressive passing range and the ability to play as a deep-lying playmaker. Tufan is an assiduous and dynamic midfielder. Terim has the option of playing Topal in a three-man midfield but seems intent on playing him as a centre-back.
Having to play a defensive midfielder in defence highlights one of Terim’s biggest problems. He will not have the Bayer Leverkusen defender Omer Toprak available, which has created a headache. Topal and the experienced Galatasaray stalwart Hakan Balta seems the most likely pairing.
Elsewhere in defence Terim has plenty of options. Internazionale’s Caner Erkin will be the first-choice left-back with Gonul on the right. Sener Ozbayrakli and Besiktas’s Ismail Koybasi are other options at full-back.
It is in attacking midfield that Terim really is spoilt for choice. Turan will almost certainly be first choice on the right. The Bayer Leverkusen star Hakan Calhanoglu could be forced to play on the left with arguably the Super Lig player of the season, Oguzhan Ozyakup of Besiktas, in a central attacking midfield role. The in-form Mainz midfielder Yunus Malli will be in the mix and Fenerbahce’s Volkan Sen and Nordsjaelland’s Emre Mor will provide additional depth.
There has been talk of Terim not playing a striker and using Malli, Turan or Calhanoglu up front as a false nine. Considering the lack of striking options it is not difficult to see the logic. The striker Cenk Tosun has broken into the Besiktas team recently but he played only as second fiddle to Mario Gómez. Mevlut Erdinc has been left out of the squad and Burak Yilmaz is struggling with an injury problem picked up playing for Beijing Guoan.
Terim controversially left the Fenerbahce goalkeeper Volkan Demirel out of the squad. While Demirel is undoubtedly more experienced than Volkan Babacan the coach decided Demirel’s presence was not good for harmony.
The emphasis of Terim’s style is fast passing, possession-based technical football. Turkey have the quality in midfield to keep hold of the ball and while they are a little toothless up front Calhanoglu, Ozyakup and Turan are capable of creating magic.
Terim has managed to find balance in an unbalanced team but any injuries to the centre-backs or forwards will prove a major headache. The array of talent in midfield could just be enough to paper over the cracks.
Probable Starting Line-up: Babacan; Gonul, Balta, Topal, Caner, Inan, Tufan, Hakan Calhanoglu, Arda Turan, Ozyakup, Cenk Tosun