Turkey are considered dark horses to impress at the Euros this summer after a recent upturn in form. Having drawn five straight games in the autumn, Turkey have since claimed victories over Russia, Netherlands and Norway in the Nations League and World Cup qualifying – results that give boss Senol Gunes plenty of encouragement heading into the Euros.
Historically Turkey have fared reasonably well in this competition. They reached the semi-finals back in 2008 before losing 3-2 to Germany and escaped the group stage in 2000 as well. Five years ago they bombed, however, to a disappointing group stage exit.
Gunes’ team this summer is made up largely of players from within the Turkish Super Lig, alongside a sprinkling of talent that plays across the continent. Milan’s Hakan Calhanoglu, Lille striker Burak Yilmaz and Leicester’s Çaglar Soyuncu make up the bedrock of this team. Meanwhile, youngsters Ozan Kabak, Enes Unal and Cengiz Under could catch the eye come June.
The boss, who returned for his second spell as national team coach in 2019 after previously leading Turkey to the World Cup in 2002, tends to deploy a 4-1-4-1 system with West Brom’s Okay Yokuslu sitting in front of the defence. Kabak and Soyuncu are Gunes’ preferred centre-back partnership, while Calhanoglu and Under are taken with carrying the ball forward. One weakness for Turkey is that up front Yilmaz – or Cenk Tosun if he is preferred – can become isolated in this system, which is why the boss will sometimes revert to 4-2-3-1 and drop Ozan Tufan back alongside Yokuslu for cover, and give Tosun a contributing role from midfield.
Turkey played on the opening day of the Euros in 2008 and do so again here. They face Italy in Rome on 11 June and also clash with Wales at the Stadio Olimpico, before playing their final Group A game against Switzerland in Baku. Because Baku is only a two-and-a-half-hour flight away from Istanbul, the team has decided to set up its HQ in the Azerbaijani capital, rather than mainland Europe.
Having impressed in Euro qualifying Group H, finishing second behind France and losing just one game in 10, there are high expectations back home that Turkey can surprise a few teams here. They earned a commendable 1-1 draw with France in Paris during that qualification campaign and Tosun top scored with five goals.
West Bromwich Albion
Burak Yılmaz (c)