Turkey have always provided fans with an exciting style of attacking football, despite playing exciting football, the team lacked consistency. They have only appeared in four European Championships and two FIFA World Cups.
Their best result at a World Cup came in 2002, when a team that featured Rustu Recber, Hakan Sukur and Nihat Kahveci, finished in third position. Turkey’s best performance in the Euro’s came in 2008 where they reached the semi-finals. The team of 2008 included the likes of Arda Turan and Mehmet Topal and with them being included in Fatih Terim’s Euro 2016 squad, their experience will be vital to their countries success.
The qualification campaign
Drawn in Group A alongside the Netherlands, Iceland and the Czech Republic, Turkey had a tricky task of qualifying. Many predicted that Turkey would have to settle for second spot, behind the Netherlands or even try to be the best third placed team if the Czech Republic finished second.
Nobody could have predicted how the group would finish. With the Netherlands performing horribly, losing to Iceland both home and away, as well as both ties against the Czech Republic, this gave Turkey an almighty chance of qualifying for the 2016 European Championships.
The Crescent Stars got off to the worst possible start, losing their first two games, 3-0 against Iceland and 2-1 against the Czech Republic. Their third game probably was the low point of their qualifying campaign, when they drew 1-1 against Latvia, who ended up finishing bottom of Group A.
After disappointing in their opening three games, they went on to claim 17 points out of a possible 21. This meant they finished third in their group, behind the Czech Republic and Iceland.
The only chance Terim’s men had of qualifying was the be the best third placed team, which they did, pipping Hungary by one point to qualify for the 2016 European Championships in France and since qualifying, Turkey have played six friendly matches and won five of them, so if they can continue this good vein of form, they could go far this summer.
Third time lucky?
Head coach Fatih Terim is now in his third term as Turkey boss and after ending his second term on a low point, he must be hoping to replicate the success he had at Euro 2008. After that tournament ended, Terim failed to lead his team to the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, this prompted his resignation and after a two year spell at Galatasaray, he accepted the job of Turkey head coach in 2013.
Regarding tactics, Terim is regarded as one of the most intelligent managers in the world; his ability to teach teams to entertain the fans as well as work hard has put his name amongst the very best.
Since taking over the national side for a third time, his win percentage is at it’s highest since his first managerial post in 1987. Since 2013 he has over-seen 31 matches, 21 have been won, four drawn and six lost, this equates to a 67.74% win percentage.
The style of play he drills his team with is one to be admired; his preferred formation is a 4-2-3-1. With the two sat in front of the defence, Terim allows one to push forward and this summer that player will be Besiktas midfielder Oguzhan Ozyakup and if he is partnered alongside Mehmet Topal or Selcuk Inan, Ozyakup will know that he has a solid midfield general covering behind him.
Pushing Ozyakup forward allows Turkey to have most of the possession, which is one aspect of Terim’s gameplan that works well, with the likes of Arda Turan and Hakan Calhanoglu, the Turks are able to control most of the game and stifle their opposition.
Up front, the one striker will be Burak Yilmaz or Cenk Tosun, but with Yilmaz now playing in China, he has lost credibility, so it is more likely that we will see 24 year-old Cenk Tosun lead the line.
Terim is confident his side can pull off a shock at this summer’s tournament, “We will not have fear from anyone and try to enjoy our football on the pitch. I am fully confident of my players. I believe we can do very interesting work there.”
Strengths and weaknesses
It’s clear to see that with Turkey’s star studded midfield, which includes the likes of; Arda Turan, Nuri Sahin, Oguzhan Ozyakup and Hakan Calhanoglu, they are going to have to be at their best in order to help their side go far this summer.
The 62 year-old has also included quite a fair few young players including centre back Ahmet Yilmaz Calik, and midfielders Ozan Tufan and 18 year-old Emre Mor. Despite being young and inexperienced, they possess a lot of potential and could surprise many this summer.
Fatih Terim has only selected two strikers for this summer’s tournament, Beijing Guoan’s Burak Yilmaz and Besiktas’ Cenk Tosun, both men are top quality strikers that possess all the required attributes to brush aside any team, however, with them both being so alike, it doesn’t give them much variation. If Gokhan Tore wasn’t suspended for the opening two matches of the tournament, it’s a given he would have been included by Terim, as his pace and power would have brought the national something different on the attack.
Regarding their goalkeeper and defenders, Harun Tekin will provide cover to either Volkan Babacan or Onur Kivrak, both men are top class goalkeepers, so Terim will have a proven shot-stopper between the sticks and based off recent friendly matches, its more likely that Babacan will start for his country.
Turkey’s defence is a strange one, with the surprise exclusion of Bayer 04 Leverkusen man Omer Toprak, Mehmet Topal will probably start alongside Semih Kaya. Which means Topal will be playing in an unfamiliar role, as his natural position is defensive midfield. Sener Ozbayrakli and Caner Erkin will provide width, so whoever starts in front of the defence, will have to be at the top of their game.
The main man of the squad is undoubtedly captain Arda Turan, able to play behind the striker or on either wing, the FC Barcelona man will prove to be crucial if his side is to progress far this summer. Having played week-in week-out for Atletico Madrid before his move to FC Barcelona, Turan racked up over 150 appearances for Los Colchoneros, during that time he proved to be vital to their rise in La Liga and Europe.
Turan’s energy on the field is one of the big reasons why so many people around the world love him, his never give up attitude encourages his team-mates to always give their best. Couple that with his incredible technical ability, Turan is able to carve open any defence in the world.
Hakan Calhanoglu will prove key to his team's success, the attacking midfielder will provide an excellent passing range as well the ability to split defences with either foot, most notably his deadball ability is second to none and if given the chance to score, Hakan will more often than not, take it.
Another key player is Semih Kaya, given that Omer Toprak has been left out of the squad, there will be added pressure to the shoulders of the Galatasary man. Being the most experienced natural centre-back in the team, Kaya is going to have to step up and command his defence. A well rounded defender, he’s quick, good in the air and on the ball, on paper he should perform well at the tournament.
Turkey line up in Group D alongside, current European champions Spain, they will also face Croatia and the Czech Republic. Having faced the Czech’s in the qualifying stages, Fatih Terim knows what it takes to beat them.
Croatia will provide a stern test, with the likes of Darijo Srna, Ivan Rakitic and Mario Mandzukic, the Turks will have to be on top form to beat them, but it’s certainly a game they feel they should win.
Their toughest task is undoubtedly Spain, featuring world-class players like; Andres Iniesta, Sergio Ramos and David Silva, Turkey will have to play some of their best football to beat them.
Turkey may not be confident that they can beat Spain, but Czech Republic and Croatia are beatable and if Turkey progress as group runners-up, they will face the winner of Group E, either Italy, Belgium, Sweden or Republic of Ireland.
Turkey vs. Croatia | 12th June | Parc des Princes, Paris.
Spain vs. Turkey | 17th June | Allianz Riviera, Nice.
Czech Republic vs. Turkey | 21st June | Stade Bollaert-Delelis, Lens.