Turkey return to the European Championships with all the tools to cause an upset or two and replicate their iconic performances at the 2002 World Cup and Euro 2008.
In his second spell in charge of The Crescent-Stars, having inspired the memorable run in Korea and Japan, Şenol Güneş has built a dangerous side capable of providing a scare against any of Europe’s more illustrious opponents.
Despite eventually finishing as runners-up to France in qualification, their victory over the world champions in Konya proved to be far from a one-off, with Germany and Croatia held to 3-3 friendly draws and the Netherlands beaten 4-2 in World Cup qualification earlier this year.
Their attacking threat is led by the evergreen presence of Burak Yilmaz, who has spearheaded Lille’s shock title challenge in Ligue 1, though Gunes can also confide in a formidable foundation at the back.
Leicester’s Caglar Soyuncu, Juventus’ Merih Demiral and Liverpool loanee Ozan Kabak provide the prospect of a sturdy defence for years to come in front of Trabzonspor’s highly-rated goalkeeper Ugurcan Cakir.
Milan’s Hakan Calhanoglu is part of the inspiration behind some of their recent eye-catching performances, with Leicester loanee Cengiz Under and Yilmaz’s Lille teammate Yusuf Yazıcı ensuring Turkey possess a genuine cutting edge in the final third.
Overall this could be one of the most interesting teams at the tournament, capable of mixing it with anybody on their day, though frustratingly inconsistent, as proven by their Nations League relegation from League B in the middle of a six-match winless streak in 2020 before victory over Russia in November sparked their current resurgence.
With this side in the mix to make it to Qatar 2022, this summer’s tournament will reveal just how far this team can go with the threat of gatecrashing Europe’s more traditional contenders.
(All times BST)
11 June (20:00): Turkey vs Italy – Stadio Olimpico, Rome
12 June (14:00): Wales vs Switzerland – Olympic Stadium, Baku
16 June 2021 (17:00): Turkey vs Wales – Olympic Stadium, Baku
16 June 2021 (20:00): Italy vs Switzerland – Stadio Olimpico, Rome
20 June 2021 (17:00): Switzerland vs Turkey – Olympic Stadium, Baku
20 June 2021 (17:00): Italy vs Wales – Stadio Olimpico, Rome
Goalkeepers: Altay Bayındır (Fenerbahçe), Mert Günok (İstanbul Başakşehir), Uğurcan Çakır (Trabzonspor).
Defenders: Zeki Çelik (LOSC Lille), Çağlar Söyüncü (Leicester), Kaan Ayhan (Sassuolo), Merih Demiral (Juventus), Mert Müldür (Sassuolo), Ozan Kabak (Liverpool), Rıdvan Yılmaz (Beşiktaş), Umut Meraş (Le Havre).
Midfielders: Yusuf Yazıcı (LOSC Lille), Dorukhan Toköz (Beşiktaş), İrfan Can Kahveci (Fenerbahçe), Okay Yokuşlu (West Brom), Orkun Kökçü (Feyenoord), Ozan Tufan (Fenerbahçe), Taylan Antalyalı (Galatasaray), Hakan Çalhanoğlu (AC Milan).
Forwards: Burak Yılmaz (LOSC Lille), Cengiz Ünder (Leicester), Enes Ünal (Getafe), Abdülkadir Ömür (Trabzonspor), Kerem Aktürkoğlu (Galatasaray), Halil İbrahim Dervişoğlu (Brentford), Kenan Karaman (Fortuna Düsseldorf).
Ones to watch
Star man: Burak Yılmaz (Lille)
A remarkable story this season, with the veteran striker firing Lille to the Ligue 1 title in France. This summer provides an opportunity for Yilmaz, 35, to lead his country and capitalise on his renaissance this season, having scored 17 goals in all competitions for Les Dogues, as well as four more over the most recent international break.
Breakout talent: Yusuf Yazıcı (Lille)
A club teammate of Yilmaz, Yazici, 24, has also impressed this term for LOSC. The left-footed second striker or attacking midfielder is a threat with his well-timed runs into the box, while also not shy of taking aim from distance when afforded time and space.
Turkey: Şenol Güneş will hope his high-scoring side can clinch a place in the knock-out stages, while his imposing centre-back pairing will pose a test for even the best attacking talent they encounter. The recent eye-catching win against the Netherlands, as well as 3-3 draws against Croatia and Germany demonstrate the threat Turkey pose. We expect Turkey to progress and provide a scare in the last 16 before bowing out.
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