Euro 2020 Team Analysis
Ay-Yıldızlılar – The Crescent-Stars
The Turkish football team is renowned for its constant oscillation from the sublime to the ridiculous. Their European qualification had been a rollercoaster ride with a mix of dip and rise in the form at various competitions. Turkey is heading into the Euros in good form after collecting 7 points in 3 games in the World Cup Qualifiers. A 4-2 win against the Netherlands has significantly boosted the confidence of the team who had a woeful Nations League Campaign.
The Turkish National Team was injury-stricken last year and the pandemic-induced postponement has helped them to get over that crisis and Senol Gunes’s side is moving forward with a strong team. Turkey had a terrific qualifying campaign finishing second in their group below France. The inaugural appearance of the team was in 1996. They have, since then, participated in the four editions of the competition, but failed to get past the group stage in two of them. They reached the quarter-finals in the year 2000 and finished third at the 2008 Euros which is their best-ever finish in the competition yet. The Turkish are expected to be inspired by their 2008 campaign and exhibit their fiery and passionate style of football and emerge as the dark horse of the tournament.
Senol Gunes, a Trabzonspor legend, has been the manager of the Turkish National Team on two occasions. He guided Turkey to their greatest achievement in their history with a 3rd place finish at the 2002 FIFA World Cup during his first stint as a manager from 2000-2004. He has been managing the current team since 2019. Gunes has managed Besiktas and Trabzonspor on three separate occasions among other Turkish league roles. The 68-year old former goalkeeper has been a manager since 1989 and has been in Turkish football ever since. The manager has developed a squad abundant in talent and he is expecting to recreate his exploits as a tactician from two decades ago.
Provisional Squad for the Euros
Turkey announced a 30-man preliminary squad on May 14. This will be reduced to 26 in the coming days.
Goalkeepers: Mert Günok (İstanbul Başakşehir), Uğurcan Çakır (Trabzonspor), Altay Bayındır (Fenerbahçe), Gökhan Akkan (Rizespor)
Defenders: Zeki Çelik (LOSC Lille), Mert Müldür (Sassuolo), Merih Demiral (Juventus), Ozan Kabak (Liverpool), Çağlar Söyüncü (Leicester), Kaan Ayhan (Sassuolo), Umut Meraş (Le Havre), Rıdvan Yılmaz (Beşiktaş)
Midfielders: Abdülkadir Ömür (Trabzonspor), Cengiz Ünder (Leicester), Efecan Karaca (Alanyaspor), Halil Akbunar (Göztepe), Dorukhan Toköz (Beşiktaş), İrfan Can Kahveci (Fenerbahçe), Mahmut Tekdemir (İstanbul Başakşehir), Okay Yokuşlu (West Brom), Orkun Kökçü (Feyenoord), Ozan Tufan (Fenerbahçe), Taylan Antalyalı (Galatasaray), Hakan Çalhanoğlu (AC Milan), Yusuf Yazıcı (LOSC Lille)
Forwards: Burak Yılmaz (LOSC Lille), Enes Ünal (Getafe), Halil İbrahim Dervişoğlu (Galatasaray), Kenan Karaman (Fortuna Düsseldorf), Kerem Aktürkoğlu (Galatasaray)
The AC Milan playmaker is undoubtedly the most important and arguably the best player in the Turkish squad. Hakan has been a brilliant presence in the midfield splitting defenses and creating chances. His set-piece finesse is something that makes him pivotal in the attacking gameplay of the Crescent-Stars. The 27-year-old plays an advanced midfield role and has scored 13 goals in 55 appearances for the country. He is expected to be the talisman in guiding Yilmaz and his young compatriots upfront towards a goal mine. His leadership in the midfield is vital in orchestrating the game.
The 25-year-old is entrusted with the responsibility of manning the sticks for Turkey. He has had 7 international appearances and he seems to have secured his spot as the goalkeeper with his exemplary performances for Trabzonspor keeping 13 clean sheets. Fehmi Mert Gunok was the goalkeeper for Turkey for most of the Euro Qualification campaign and he kept the cleanest sheets (7) and Turkey had a commendable defensive record. The promotion of Cakir into the starting lineup shows how the manager rates Cakir over Gunok and how the Turkey National team is overflowing with flair and aptitude.
The Turkish team captain has been sensational in the Ligue 1 title victory for Lille this season. A calm and determined striker, Yilmaz has been an integral part of the Crescent-Stars along with Hakan in their qualifier successes. Yusuf Yazici and Zeki Celik were both beside the captain at Lille during their historic campaign and if the purple patch continues for them it is good news for the fiery fans of Turkey. The synchronization within the team can help the 35-year-old striker to harness his form and experience into scoring goals. He is arguably one of the best strikers in the competition at the moment. In all competitions for Lille this season, he has 19 starts, 14 goals, and 5 assists.
Predicted Lineup and Formation
The tactician had failed to settle on a consistent formation and had rotated his side heavily and awkwardly, maybe to experiment, and that had eventually led to the Nations League relegation. He has experimented with two strikers with a 4-1-2-1-2 formation and several formations with a 4-2-3-1 base. Taking the World Cup Qualifiers into consideration, Yilmaz is expected to lead the forward line with Hakan Çalhanoğlu, Yazici, and Kenan Karaman with the attacking support. Ozan Tofun and O. Yokuslu form the pivot where the full-backs Erkin and Celik overlap. Turkey is blessed with several ball-playing centre-backs out of which Soyuncu and Demiral are likely to be selected. The likes of Kabak cannot be ignored, but Demiral stands out as a better centre-back pair alongside Soyuncu. If Gunes decides to play with 3 centre-backs, Demiral-Soyuncu-Kabak will become a formidable trio.
Turkey has great quality in defence. They have had the best defensive record in the Euro Qualifiers. The defenders and the goalkeepers had a great deal to offer in the team’s success. The LOSC Lille trio of Burak Yilmaz, Yusuf Yazici, and Zeki Celik provides coordination in the functioning of the team and this gives Turkey an added advantage as a unit. The attacking flair of the players of the Super Lig and the presence of a midfield general like Çalhanoğlu places the Turkish attack on a higher pedestal.
The over-rotation of the players and the radical change of tactics and style of play have caused miscommunications and many disadvantages to the Turkey side. The inconsistency has resulted in the Nations League relegation and this has proved to be the biggest weakness concerning the Crescent-Stars.
The Turkey National Team has had a mixed bag of fortunes over the years. They have produced some glittering performances recently, most notably the toppling of the World cup winning France side and the ruthless thrashing of the Dutch. But on the other hand, they also lost twice to Hungary and edged past Russia in an unconvincing manner. They show traits of attacking and defensive gameplay and can’t settle on a particular tactic. Despite this inconsistency, the Crescent-Stars are shimmering with promise and exquisite talent.
The unpredictable nature of this team can cause problems for others as the side can be explosive as well as faint. The Turkish side is a mix of experience and youth and they are determined to display a firebrand style of football and setting the “tournament on fire”, according to pundits. The ‘dark horse’ as I have mentioned earlier, the Turkish National Team expects to write their success story through this edition of the Euros. Turkey is capable of finishing second in their group and heading into the knockout stage, unlike in their previous campaigns. A successful manager and a group of bright young stars have always been the ideal “underdog” story and we will see how this Middle Eastern side performs in this campaign.