Euro 2020: Can Turkey live up to their popular dark horse billing

After reaching the semi-finals at Euro 2008, Turkey diminished from the international scene.

They only qualified for one of the next five tournaments, Euro 2016 where they crashed out at the group stages. This summer, however, they are back and are many people’s dark horse to reach the latter stages. With a solid defence and in-form attackers, they can cause an upset or two.

Group A: TURKEY, Italy, Switzerland, Wales
Manager: Senol Gunes
Odds (PP): 66/1
Recent Tournaments: World Cup 2018 (did not qualify), Euro 2016 (Group Stage)
FIFA World Ranking: 29th

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Key Man

Burak Yilmaz. The veteran striker, who will turn 36 in July, has just fired Lille to the Ligue 1 title with 16 goals and five assists. With Cenk Tosun out injured he is even more important and if he can bag goals and bully defenders like he did across France this season then Turkey could turn a few heads at the tournament.

The Squad

Senol Gunes has named a provisional 30-man squad, which must be cut to 26 before June 1st. Trabzonspor number one Ugurcan Cakir was named and should start in goal with fellow Turkish SuperLig ‘keepers Mert Gunok, Gokhan Akkan and Altay Bayindir deputysing.

Three of Lille’s title winning team are named in the squad and set to start. Right back Zeki Celik, forward Yusuf Yazici while captain and talisman, Burak Yilmaz, will lead the line. All three were pivotal to Lille’s success.

Central defence is their strongest area with Juventus’s Merih Demiral, Leicester’s Caglar Soyuncu and Liverpool loanee Ozan Kabak all named. Versatile Sassuolo defenders Kaan Ayhan and Murt Muldur were also selected. Both can play centre and right back, aswell as midfield.

Celta Vigo’s Okay Yokuslu, who spent the latter half of the season on loan at West Brom was selected in midfield, as was Fenerbache duo Ozan Tufan and Irfan Kahveci. AC Milan playmaker Hakan Calhanoglu makes the squad and is certain to start in the number 10 role he is so accustomed to in Stefan Pioli’s Milan side. Roma’s Cengiz Under is also included and will likely start out wide despite failing to impress on loan at Leicester this season.

Up front the depth is not great. Turkey and Gunes will be praying Yilmaz stays fit, especially with Tosun out injured. Getafe’s Enas Unal, Brentford’s Halil Dervisoglu, on loan at Galatasaray and Kenan Karaman, who plays with second tier German side Fortuna Dusseldorf, make up a relatively light striking department.

One to Watch

Merih Demiral. The 23-year-old defender only managed 15 league appearances in an injury hit campaign but is now back and ready to go for the Euros. He a is strong, pacey, and very physical defender who can also play right back or either side of a back three if needed. If he is back to his best, the form which earned him a move to Juventus from Sassuolo in 2019, then he and Soyuncu form what will be one of the strongest centre defensive partnerships at the tournament.

Squad

Goalkeepers: Mert Gunok (Istanbul Basaksehir), Ugurcan Cakir (Trabzonspor), Gokhan Akkan (Caykur Rizespor), Altay Bayindir (Fenerbahce)

Defenders: Kaan Ayhan (Sassuolo), Caglar Soyuncu (Leicester City), Merih Demiral (Juventus), Zeki Celik (Lille), Umut Meras (Le Havre), Ozan Kabak (Liverpool), Ridvan Yilmaz (Beşiktaş), Mert Muldur (Sassuolo)

Midfielders: Abdülkadir Ömür (Trabzonspor), Efecan Karaca (Alanyaspor), Ozan Tufan (Fenerbahce), Hakan Calhanoglu (AC Milan), Okay Yokuslu (West Brom), Irfan Kahveci (Fenerbahce), Dorukhan Tokoz (Besiktas), Orkun Kokcu (Feyenoord), Halil Akbunar (Goztepe)

Forwards: Burak Yilmaz (Lille), Halil İbrahim Dervişoğlu (Galatasaray), Kenan Karaman (Fortuna Dusseldorf), Enes Unal (Getafe), Kerem Aktürkoğlu (Galatasaray), Yusuf Yazici (Lille)

The Author

Daragh Searing

Student and sports fanatic, aged 19. I availed of the extra time on my hands during the pandemic to get into sportswriting, something I've always had strong interest in. Man United fan but also a keen follower of Serie A & European football. Hoping to pursue a career in sportswriting, with Soccer and Rugby my areas of expertise. email: searingdaragh9@gmail.com

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