During the course of UEFA EURO 2020 we will be taking a closer look at each of our opponents. On Wednesday, Rob Page's Cymru take on Turkey at the Olympic Stadium in Baku (5pm) in the second Group A match. Here's all you need to know about The Crescent Stars.
It was after the turn of the millennium that Turkey enjoyed their finest moments on the international stage. 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 leadership of current manager 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.
The current Turkish side have been labelled as a talented generation, and the postponement of EURO 2020 has enabled a number of important players to recover from long-term injury ahead of the tournament. However, their opening 3-0 defeat to Italy on Friday night did little to support the view that Turkey could be a surprise package at the tournament, and a big reaction is needed on Wednesday if they are to progress to the knock-out stage.
EURO appearances: 4 (1996, 2000, 2008, 2016)
Best finish: Semi-final (2008)
- Name: Şenol Güneş
- Age: 68
- Nationality: Turkish
A former goalkeeper with Trabzonspor during the 1970's and 80's, Güneş has returned to lead his country for a second time, and has so far delivered by qualifying for EURO 2020. Previously, Güneş guided Turkey to a third-place finish at the 2002 World Cup, and oversaw a period of success that resulted in Turkey reaching their highest position of fifth in the FIFA rankings. However, failing to qualify for EURO 2004 brought an end to his first spell with the national team. With over 30 years experience and almost 1,000 games in management, Güneş has coached in Turkey throughout his career, except for a brief spell in Korea between 2007 and 2009.
- Name: Burak Yılmaz
- Age: 35
- Club: Lille (France)
- Position: Forward
An experienced striker, Yılmaz leads Turkey into EURO 2020 on the back of one of the best seasons of his professional playing career as his 16 goals helped Lille to a shock Ligue 1 title ahead of Paris Saint-Germain. Born in Antalya, Yılmaz has been an important figure for the Turkish national team for over a decade, and the veteran figure will lead from the front as his side look to realise the potential that exists within this team. Back in March, Yılmaz scored a hat-trick in the 4-2 win over the Netherlands in World Cup qualifying.
The first EURO appearance by Turkey was in 1996, but the side lost all three group games and failed to score a single goal. Manager Fatih Terim was replaced by Mustafa Denizli, and the side subsequently reached the quarter-finals at EURO 2000, exiting the tournament with a 2-0 defeat to Portugal. Terim returned to take charge of the national team for a third time, and he enjoyed a more successful tenure as EURO 2008 proved to be their best performance to date as they were eliminated at the semi-final stage by Germany. However, with Terim back for a fourth spell at EURO 2016, the side did not make it through their group.
How they qualified
Turkey qualified as runners-up in Group H behind world champions France, and impressively conceded just three goals during the course of their ten qualifying games. The side claimed four points from France during the qualifying campaign, registering 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. However, the side responded well in 2021, claiming seven points from a possible nine in World Cup qualifying with victories over the Netherlands and Norway in March before being held to a surprise 3-3 draw against Latvia in Istanbul. During the three games, Turkey scored an impressive ten goals, but their defensive vulnerability was evident in the five goals that they conceded in the process. Such frailties were also evident on Friday as they began EURO 2020 with a 3-0 defeat to Italy in Rome.
Teamwork is very much an important element of this Turkish side under the management of Şenol Güneş and their game is based on playing a compact and defensive style. The veteran coach will adapt his tactical system and shape to counter the opposition, although the back four is rarely altered and forms the foundation for their approach. Captain Burak Yilmaz of Lille is a natural leader who defines the philosophy that has made Turkey a frustrating side to play against, but their defence is currently a cause for concern.
Both Turkey and Cymru head into their second Group A match on Wednesday needing a victory, and there will be an intriguing tactical battle between the two managers. Both have shown in recent games that they are comfortable in altering their respective systems based on the shape of their opposition, and it will be interesting to see if Rob Page or Şenol Güneş show their attacking hand from the start.
“Turkey is a country of football-mad fanatics with a population of over 80 million. 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 are well-organised and difficult to break down whilst posing a real threat on the break. 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.” - Pete Sharland, Eurosport.
A moment in history – Turkey at the 2002 World Cup
Current manager Şenol Güneş masterminded Turkey's results at the 2002 World Cup finals in South Korea and Japan. Appointed for his first spell in charge of the national team in 2000, Güneş had enjoyed success during his playing career as a goalkeeper with Trabzonspor. Qualifying for the play-offs as runners-up behind Sweden in Group 4, a goal from Okan Burak handed Turkey a 1-0 advantage in the 1st leg against Austria, before a convincing 5-0 win in Istanbul a few days later confirmed their place at the finals.
An opening 2-1 defeat against Brazil in the group stage was followed by a 1-1 draw with Costa Rica, but goals from Hasan Şaş, Bülent Korkmaz and Ümit Davala earned the side a 3-0 win over China PR in the final group game in Seoul to take Turkey through to the next round. Ümit Davala was the hero against Japan in the round of 16 as his goal in the opening half proved to be the difference between the two nations, while İlhan Mansız made history in the quarter-finals with his extra-time winner against Senegal to setup a semi-final against eventual tournament winners Brazil.
A goal from Ronaldo early in the second half ended Turkey's dream. The 1-0 defeat was tough to take for Güneş as his side had performed better against their opponents in the semi-final than they did when they met at the group stage. However, Turkey showed their true character to claim third-place at the tournament with a 3-2 win over South Korea in a match that saw the great Hakan Şükür score the fastest goal in World Cup history after 10.8 seconds.
Record v Cymru
There have only been six previous meetings between Cymru and Turkey, with Cymru winning three of these fixtures 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 at the Racecourse in November 1978, while the latest meeting ended in defeat for Cymru as Turkey won an incredible game 6-4 in Istanbul back in August 1997. Current Cymru manager Rob Page made his senior international debut against Turkey when the two teams played out a 0-0 draw in 1996.