Turkey is a great football country. The fervor of this championship and the performances of Galatasaray, Fenerbahçe or Besiktas over the last 20 years have left their mark. The selection also had moments of glory with 3rd place in the 2002 World Cup and the semi-final of Euro 2008. Thirteen years later, the panorama is very different, but not the ambitions. After a nice qualifying run and recent performances that leave room for optimism, Turkey can nurture ambitions for this competition. With famous players like Merih Demiral, Caglar Söyüncü, Hakan Calhanoglu or Burak Yilmaz, the potential to go far is quite interesting. Before playing against Wales and Switzerland, Turkey starts with Italy.
Turkey strong in the big matches
Italy can be wary as Turkey has performed well for two years against the big teams. Thus, she beat France on June 8, 2019 in the qualifiers (2-0) before snatching a draw at the Stade de France a few months later (1-1). Able to catch Germany (3-3) and Croatia (3-3) last fall, or beat Russia quarter-finalist of the last world (3-2), the selection of Senol Günes remains over a fairly impressive month of March. Widely winning her match against Norway of Erling Braut Haaland and Martin Odegaard (3-0), she was especially successful against the Netherlands (4-2) with a hat-trick from Burak Yilmaz. Bodes well before facing tough opponents in Group A as Turkey will compete with Italy, Switzerland and Wales.
Burak Yilmaz on his little cloud
If a man represents the state of mind of this valiant and fighting Turkish team, it is Burak Yilmaz. The striker crowned champion of France with Lille has been in brilliant form for a few weeks. Author of 18 goals and 5 assists with the Mastiffs in 33 matches this season, he has been successful in the home stretch with 7 goals in the last 7 Ligue 1 matches with doubles against Olympique Lyonnais and Racing Club de Lens . In the last meetings with Turkey, he has also been effective with 5 goals in his last 4 caps, culminating in a hat-trick against the Netherlands on March 24. Captain of Turkey and second highest scorer in the history of the selection (29 goals in 67 caps), the native of Antalya intends to continue at his insane pace at almost 36 years old.
An impressive defense
In the figures, this is not necessarily felt in the last matches with 6 goals conceded in 6 matches over the year 2021, but Turkey has a sacred defense. In qualifying, it only cracked 3 times in 10 matches and it was against France and Iceland. With 8 clean sheets, Turkey has the best defense in qualifying tied with Belgium. Qualitatively and quantitatively endowed in defense, Turkey can count on the solid Ugurcan Cakir in the goals which has prevailed in the last matches. At the hinge, there is a choice with four defenders of fairly similar level. Merih Demiral (Juventus) and Caglar Söyüncü (Leicester) are expected to start, but Kaan Ayhan (Sassuolo) and Ozan Kabak (Liverpool) also offer guarantees. In the corridors we should find two players who play in France since Zeki Çelik (Lille) will play on the right while Umut Meras (Le Havre) has chances to start on the left side.
Senol Gunes knows the recipe
Coaching legend in Turkey, Senol Günes has solid references on the national scene with in his suitcase the Turkish championships 2016 and 2017 won with Besiktas. This is his second stint at the head of Ay-Yıldızlılar since he had led the selection between 2000 and 2004. It was also he who took Turkey to 3rd place in the 2002 World Cup by eliminating in particular Japan (1-0) and Senegal (1-0 after extra time) before losing against future winner Brazil (1-0). Back since March 18, 2019, he has an excellent record with 14 wins, 9 draws and 3 defeats (Iceland 2-1, Hungary 1-0 and Hungary 2-0). With a very rigorous team, but which is capable of bringing a lot of verticality, he was able to totally derail prestigious opponents. The 2-0 victories against France and 4-2 against the Netherlands serve as benchmarks for Turkey before Euro 2020.
A rising youth
At Euro 2008, Turkey had a very experienced squad as only Tümer Metin, Arda Turan, Semih Senturk and Mevlut Erding were under 23. This time, the scenario is different since only Mert Günok (32 years old), and Burak Yilmaz (35 years old) are in their thirties. After a generational gap, Turkey returns with young talents. The eleven announced to start the competition is only 26 years old on average and they are 10 out of 26 to be 23 years old or less (Altay Bayindir, Merih Demiral, Ozan Kabak, Ridvan Yilmaz, Mert Müldür, Orkun Kökcü, Abdülkadir Ömur, Kerem Aktürkoglu, Cengiz Ünder and Halil Dervisoglu). Thus, Turkey has a pool of interesting players which will surely allow it to establish itself in the European landscape over time, unlike the last European Championships. 2008 was the last ball of a good generation while 2016 was carried out in a period of generational gap. 2020, on the other hand, may be a founder for a Turkish team steeped in talent.