With UEFA EURO 2020 postponed last year as a result of the pandemic, it's time to check in on our Group A opponents as preparations begin for the competition that will now take place this summer.
In the second of this three-part series, we take a look at Turkey.
Turkey v Cymru
- 16 June 2021
- Baku, Azerbaijan
It was during the turn of the century that international football in Turkey enjoyed it's finest hour. Inspired by legendary figures such as all-time leading goalscorer Hakan Şükür and record appearance holder Rüştü Reçber, the side reached the semi-finals of both the 2002 FIFA World Cup and UEFA EURO 2008. It was under the management of Şenol Güneş that Turkey enjoyed their most-successful World Cup, and the veteran coach is back for a second spell having returned as manager in February 2019.
Turkey first appeared at the finals of EURO back in 1996, but lost all three group games and fail to register a single goal in a disappointing display. Manager Fatih Terim was replaced by Mustafa Denizli, and the side subsequently reached the quarter-finals of the 2000 edition of the competition, exiting the tournament with a 2-0 defeat to Portugal.
Terim returned to take charge of the national team for a third time in 2005, and he enjoyed a more successful tenure as their next EURO appearance in 2008 proved to be their best as they were eliminated at the semi-final stage by Germany having defeated Croatia in the previous round. The fourth and final appearance at EURO came in 2016, and with Terim back for a fourth spell, the side under-performed and did not make it through the group stages.
Tournament appearances: 4
Best finish: Semi-final (2008)
How they Qualified
Turkey made it through Group H as runners-up behind world champions France, but the most impressive statistic of the campaign was that they conceded just three goals during the course of their ten qualifying games. The side claimed four points from France, claiming a 2-0 win at home in June 2019 through goals from Kaan Ayhan and Cengiz Ünder, before holding the group favourites to a 1-1 draw in Paris. Cenk Tosun was the leading scorer for Turkey in the group with five goals.
It was a frustrating UEFA Nations League campaign for Turkey at the end of 2020 as Şenol Güneş' side were relegated from League B3. The side registered only one victory in their six games, claiming a 3-2 win over Russia in Istanbul on the penultimate matchday, but two defeats to Hungary and dropping points against Serbia left them bottom of the table on head-to-head goal difference. During the course of 2020, Turkey claimed just one win in eight games, suffering two defeats and recording five consecutive draws.
Teamwork is very much the key element of this Turkish side under the management of Şenol Güneş and their game is based on playing a compact and defensive style. Although they regularly switch formation to counter their opponents, the presence of a back four is rarely altered, and this forms the foundation of their approach. Captain Burak Yilmaz of Lille is a tough and natural leader who represents the philosophy that has made Turkey a frustrating side to play against for a number of nations in recent years
Record v Cymru
There have only been six previous meetings between Cymru and Turkey, with Cymru enjoying the statistical advantage having won three of these meetings compared to Turkey's two victories in 1979 and 1997. Nick Deacy scored the only goal of the game when the two sides first met in Wrexham in November 1978, while the latest meeting saw the two nations share ten goals as Turkey won an incredible game 6-4 in Istanbul back in August 1997. The only draw between the sides came in December 1996 as both teams failed to find the net in Cardiff.
Name: Şenol Güneş
A former goalkeeper with Trabzonspor during the 1970's and 80's, Güneş returned to manage the national team for a second time in February 2019. Having guided his country to the semi-finals of the 2002 World Cup, eventually finishing third, he oversaw a period of success that resulted in Turkey reaching their highest position of fifth in the FIFA rankings. However, their failure to qualify for EURO 2004 brought his first tenure to an end. With over 30 years experience as a manager, Güneş has coached in Turkey throughout his career except for a brief period between 2007 and 2009 when he took charge of Korean side FC Seoul. He is now a veteran of almost 1000 games as a manager for club and country.
One to Watch
Name: Hakan Çalhanoğlu
Club: AC Milan (Italy)
Position: Attacking midfielder
An important player in a rejuvenated AC Milan side this season, Çalhanoğlu heads towards EURO in fine form and in the prime stage of his career. Born in Mannheim in Germany, Çalhanoğlu represented Hamburg and Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga before making the switch to Italy with AC Milan in the summer of 2017, and has made over 100 appearances for the club since he arrived at the San Siro. Opting to play for Turkey over Germany, Çalhanoğlu made his senior international debut in September 2013 against Andorra, and has since made played over 50 international games, scoring 11 goals in the process. A set-piece specialist, Çalhanoğlu is a versatile midfielder and a creative figure in the attacking third.