Turkey are not among the favourites to win Euro 2020 — but they could be a dark horse to go far in the tournament.
After some impressive recent results in World Cup qualifiers, the Crescent-Stars look in good shape to surprise a few people.
But they will be tested in a tricky group including a resurgent Italy, as well as fellow underdogs Wales and Switzerland.
This will be Turkey’s fifth appearance in the European Championship and they will hope to do better than in 2016, when they were eliminated in the group phase.
A semi-final in 2008 is the highlight of their history in the tournament, when they beat the Czech Republic and co-hosts Switzerland in Group A before eliminating Croatia on penalties in the quarter-finals.
Defeat to Germany ended their hopes of winning the competition and they are yet to match that achievement.
The hope is this summer will be different and the team’s recent form has certainly heightened expectations in Turkey.
How they qualified
It is an indication of Turkey’s strength that they nearly pipped France to top spot in Group H — the world champions were just two points clear in the final standings.
Turkey beat Les Bleus 2-0 in Konya, which was one of several recent results to suggest they could compete with Europe’s top teams on the biggest stage.
But a 2-1 qualifying defeat to Iceland hints at an unpredictable streak when facing less established nations.
Oddly, playing against Italy might suit Turkey’s counter-attacking style better than closely-fought games against Wales and Switzerland.
Turkey tend to set up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with the experienced Burak Yilmaz expected to lead the line.
Their strong defensive record helped them qualify for the finals, conceding a miserly three goals across all 10 games — only Belgium, one of the tournament favourites, were as imperious at the back.
But Turkey will not simply look to contain their opponents. They are an effective counter-attacking team capable of scoring freely, as they proved in their recent 4-2 victory over the Netherlands.
Predicted line-up: Cakir; Celik, Demiral, Soyuncu, Meras; Yokuslu, Tufan; Under, Calhanoglu, Yazici; Yilmaz.
Star man: Hakan Calhanoglu
Hakan Calhanoglu is the man providing the ammunition.
His creativity and ability to pick a pass will be crucial in a group filled with defensively competent teams.
No player in Serie A created more chances (98) than the AC Milan midfielder in 2020-21.
He also topped the charts for assists from set-pieces (six), which could be a useful weapon in Turkey’s arsenal during tight matches.
Up-and-comer: Merih Demiral
Merih Demiral has built a formidable central defensive partnership with Leicester’s Caglar Soyuncu for the national team.
At 23, the future looks bright for the Juventus defender, who has made his mark despite limited minutes for the Italians.
Demiral’s ability with the ball at his feet — he had a 94.02% pass completion rate in Serie A in 2020-21 — allows Turkey to play out from the back and build attacks from deeper positions.
Senol Gunes is in his second spell as Turkey manager and so far it has been a success.
The former Besiktas coach guided his country to the semi-finals of the 2002 World Cup and will hope for a similarly impressive run at the Euros.
At 68, he is vastly experienced and has a strong record in knockout competitions — Turkey appear to be in safe hands with the experienced former goalkeeper at the helm.