FOCUS ON TURKEY
FOCUS ON TURKEY
“Our opponents might be strong but we need to level up as well. This is a team that earned the country’s respect. Of course, there will be changes but our door is open to all. However, the newcomers must show better performance. We’re always scouting for talents. This is our team, this is everyone’s team. The national team’s performance can inspire the next generation of footballers.”
There has been no shortage of goals from Turkey in 2021 with Güneş's side scoring 10 goals in three games during March to take seven points from a possible nine to start their World Cup qualifying campaign. An impressive 4-2 win over the Netherlands came courtesy of a hat-trick from Burak Yılmaz, and the side followed on from the victory a few days later with a 3-0 win away to Norway, with Ozan Tufan scoring a brace. However, three competitive international games in the space of just seven days proved to be a challenge too far as the side were held to a 3-3 draw against Latvia in Istanbul. Prior to that, Turkey were relegated from UEFA Nations League B at the end of 2020.
“Turkey is a country of football-mad fanatics with a population of over 80 million,” explained Eurosport journalist Pete Sharland in his feature on the national team. “A country with an extraordinary passion for both their domestic and national teams. This was a country that produced a side that shocked the world in 2002 when it finished third at the World Cup. They then won hearts and minds six years later by repeating the trick at the 2008 European Championships. By the time the European Championships take place in 2021, it will be just the fourth tournament Turkey have competed in during the previous 20 years.
“For whatever reason Turkey appear poised on the cusp of another golden generation, a group who can follow in the footsteps of the 2002 team. The headline act, of course is Cengiz Ünder. The baby-faced trickster who has taken Serie A by storm. He’s a wizard, the sort of player fans love to dub something like 'the Turkish Messi' which is to do his own talents a huge disservice. The mastermind of the whole operation may be a familiar name, it’s Şenol Güneş, who was in charge in 2002. Güneş was brought back in February 2019 after the federation dispensed with the services of Mircea Lucescu. He is the one who led the team to EURO 2020 qualification, beating world champions France 2-0 along the way.
“That night in Konya was the perfect example of why Turkey are going to be so difficult to beat. They are well-organised and difficult to break down whilst posing a real threat on the break. Of course the raucous crowd certainly helped as well, in that regard it is a shame that Turkey will not host any of the games in the multi-city format. The pressure will be as intense as ever, the Turkish media and fan base is as unforgiving as they get but this generation might be the ones who can get through that and achieve something truly special.”