Euro 2016 – Turkey

Turkey will compete in their fourth European Championships in just over two weeks after qualifying for the tournament as the best third-placed team. Turkey came through the tough Group A which saw the Netherlands pushed down into fourth place behind group winners Czech Republic, Iceland that Turkey – it was the first time that the Dutch failed to qualify for the Euros since 1984.

It was an up and down qualifying process for the Turkish and only secured qualification in the 89th minute of the final game via a Selçuk İnan free kick. It was the first time the country had qualified for the tournament in eight years after missing out on the Poland and Ukraine edition four years ago.

In their previous appearance in Austria and Switzerland, led by Emre Belözoğlu Turkey had an excellent tournament, as they finished third by default after losing the semi-final 3-2 to Germany.

Turkey will be hoping to put in a similar performance in France, but will be up against it after being drawn against Spain, Czech Republic and Croatia in Group D. We were lucky enough to catch up with Ata Dizdar – a Turkish football expert to discuss his country’s chances in the tournament which kicks off with a game against Croatia on 12th June in Paris.

Turkey managed to get to France as the best third-placed team in the qualifiers – are you optimistic about the team’s chances in Euro 2016?

I’m not expecting much if i’m honest.  Considering that Turkey qualified in the most unlikely and convoluted way possible, I don’t think Turkey will do well in terms of a technical standpoint.  I expect them to run on adrenaline and emotion, but that can only take a team so far.  I’m expecting them to crash out in the group stage after being drawn against some very difficult opposition.

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Who were the best performers during the qualifiers?

It’s really hard to say.  I don’t think anyone truly stood out to be honest.

Burak Yılmaz was our top-scorer in qualification with four goals. Whereas Galatasaray midfielder Selçuk İnan bagged three, including the all important 89th minute winner against Iceland that secured qualification.

Turkey have been handed a really tough group alongside holders Spain, Czech Republic and Croatia. Which team proposes the biggest threat and how do you see the games going?

All these teams are a threat to Turkey to be honest.  I was surprised when the Czech Republic came up because Turkey had played them during the qualifiers.  We lost to them at home in Istanbul but beat them away in Prague, so who knows what will happen in France.

I doubt Turkey will even draw against Spain, the gulf in class is just too obvious and I feel we’ll be beaten.

What tactics do you expect Fatih Terim to play during the finals?

Most likely he will employ a 4-2-3-1 formation throughout the tournament. They do sometimes experience a lack of tactical discipline on the pitch, which means they may lose shape and be forced to improvise during the game.

Perhaps Turkey will rely heavily on attacking midfielders Arda Turan, Oğuzhan Özyakup, Hakan Çalhanoğlu, and Selçuk İnan, who all posses bags of creative quality and could prove to be a major asset in France. I just hope they can stay solid at the back.

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Who will be the key players for the Turkey in the summer?

The usual suspects will be the ones to look out for, such as Arda Turan and Hakan Çalhanoğlu for instance.  The problem is that Turan hasn’t exactly done anything since joining Barcelona.  Also, considering the possibility of Gökhan Töre in the squad, and the gun incident a few years ago between him and Çalhanoğlu, I get the feeling that there could be infighting.

Who do you pinpoint as potential stars of the future?

There’s been some hype about defender Çağlar Söyüncü of second tier side Altinordu.  He has just agreed to move to Germany with SC Freiburg, so there are high hopes for him. But sadly, any time that there’s some hype about a Turkish youth, they either aren’t that good to begin with, or waste their talent. Of course, it’s best to keep in mind that Turkey outsources player development.  A case in point is Emre Mor of FC Nordsjælland, he grew up in Denmark, but chose Turkey because of ancestry.

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What is the public opinion during the run-up to the finals?

It seems Turkey has a manic-depressive mantra they exhibit over football.  Nothing is ever in the middle; it’s always at the extremes.  The people have high hopes but I’m always extra cautious.

What is the state of domestic football nowadays – the league has attracted the likes of Robin van Persie and Nani over the last year or so – how do you compare it to other leagues in Europe?

Turkey is more like European football’s bizzaro world.  I can basically say that one can take everything they know if they watch the major European leagues and throw it out of the window.  Turkey seems about 10 – 20 years behind.

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The league has been declining in quality over recent years.  Ticket sales have gone downhill ever since the introduction of the Passolig e-ticket system.  People are worried that their personal information can be used against them by the government in case they “get out of line”.  Also, it doesn’t help that teams are accused of fixing matches on a weekly basis.

Beşiktaş won the league this season to break the dominance of Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray – are there others that can challenge their dominance over the next few years?

Beşiktaş have won the league title, but do I think that they can sustain it?  I doubt it. Beşiktaş have won their first league title in seven years.  But even with new Financial Fair Play restrictions imposed upon Fenerbahçe, and with Galatasaray’s ban from Europe, something tells me that it could be a one off.

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The only team that I can think of even challenging, if they keep on the right path, is Konyaspor.  They finished third and have a pretty decent squad.  Thing is, I get the feeling Beşiktaş might overextend themselves financially in order to try to sustain the success.  Also, Beşiktaş is currently under a 2+2 year Financial Fair Play settlement.  With Fenerbahçe also under a similar settlement, it will be interesting to see how both will try and get around those restrictions.

A huge thanks goes out to Ata Dizdar for agreeing to the interview and answering our questions in such depth. If you are a fan of Turkish football please be sure to follow him on Twitter and listen to his excellent podcast where he can be found discussing all things related to the Turkish game.

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