Published 26/05/2016 at 12:57 GMT | Updated 10/06/2016 at 17:02 GMT
Turkey left it late to reach Euro 2016, but then they are used to coming back when all hope seems to have gone. Back in their last European Championship appearance, eight years ago, they defeated Switzerland at the death before overcoming a 2-0 deficit against Czech Republic to qualify for the last eight and scoring a 122nd minute equaliser against Croatia en route to an eventual last four place.
It was a rollercoaster ride and, if Turkey can start out on the front foot this time around, perhaps they can achieve something similar. Fatih Terim’s side is a scintillating prospect on paper and they have their tails up after turning their qualifying campaign around.
Which Turkey will turn up? They had gone 13 games unbeaten before a narrow friendly defeat to England in May and have a mouthwatering array of technical quality at their disposal. But the days of a heavy defeat to Iceland and successive draws with Latvia are not exactly ancient history and defensive concentration, in particular, will be a big thing to get right this summer. If Turkey click then a tilt at Group D’s top two spots cannot be ruled out; the opposite, and it will be a short, sharp return to the European Championship.
Turkey's Selcuk Inan (3R) celebrates scoring with team mates during their Euro 2016 Group A qualification soccer match against Iceland in Konya, Turkey, October 13, 2015. REUTERS/Umit Bektas
Turkey’s midfield should provide technical delights to feast upon and there is plenty of depth in creative positions too. Gokhan Tore, the firebrand Besiktas winger, is suspended for the first two games but was included in Terim’s squad and would be a fascinating wildcard if a result is needed in their third group game against Czech Republic. “I have included him on the basis that we are very hopeful of making the latter stages of the competition,” Terim said.
THE MANAGER: FATIH TERIM
Turkey's coach Fatih Terim and Arda Turan during the match
Image credit: Reuters
Terim just cannot stay away from the Turkey job. This is a third stint for the ‘Emperor’, who took over in 2013 and has certainly seen perceptions of his current reign shift in the last year after a poor start. He probably deserved the benefit of the doubt: his first attempt at coaching the national team resulted in a first major tournament for the country, Euro 96, and then in 2008 he took them to the semi-finals – even though they led for just 13 minutes of the tournament.
TOP THREE PLAYERS
Hakan Calhanoglu: The Bayer Leverkusen playmaker is still just 22 and surely destined for one of Europe’s top clubs. He is one of the best dead ball takers around and a creative force who, if on top form, could take Turkey far.
Hakan Calhanoglu celebrates after scoring the first goal for Turkey
Image credit: Reuters
Arda Turan: It has not been plain sailing for Turan since his delayed move to Barcelona and he may well leave this summer, but he is still one of the continent’s outstanding attacking midfielders.
Barcelona's Turkish forward Arda Turan arrives for a training session at the Sports Center FC Barcelona Joan Gamper
Image credit: AFP
Oguzhan Ozyakup: The former Arsenal player, now with Turkish champions Besiktas, has become increasingly important to his country and fits neatly into a technically superb midfield with his vision and passing range.
SOCIAL MEDIA STAR
Instagram is a good place to check up on the latest from Ozyakup, whose recent video of Besiktas’ spectacular title celebrations proved particularly popular.
JONATHAN WILSON’S KILLER KNOWLEDGE
The big tactical issue is where Calhanoglu fits in. The free-kick specialist may end up being used as a false nine with the creative trident in Fatih Terim’s 4-2-3-1 being filled by Turan, Ozyakup, and Volkan Sen to the other. Burak Yilmaz and Cenk Tosun are the options if Terim goes with a more orthodox number nine.
HOW THEY QUALIFIED
Turkey are unique among the Euro 2016 finalists, having qualified as the best third-placed finisher in the group stage. Selcuk Inan’s dramatic 89th minute free-kick against Iceland in Konya did the job and sparked wild celebrations having revitalised a qualifying campaign that had looked dead on its feet.
They had begun with defeats to Iceland and Czech Republic, followed by a draw in Latvia; results picked up thereafter but it was not until a stunning 3-0 win over the Netherlands was followed by a 2-0 victory in Prague that they really pulled it out of the fire. That set the stage for those late heroics in October, and Turkey now enter Euro 2016 full of momentum.
Burak Yilmaz (L) of Turkey celebrates his goal with his teammate Caner Erkin during their Euro 2016 Group A qualifying soccer match against the Netherlands in Konya, Turkey, September 6, 2015.