Euro 2020 preview, Group A – Turkey: Emre Sarigul picks out Turkey as dark horses
Our Matchday Squad will cover every nation at the Euros
For Euro 2020, we’ve assembled 24 expert journalists to give you the latest insight and tips on every team throughout the tournament.
Here, Emre Sarigul gives us his take on Turkey…
Give us an overview of your team’s chances at Euro 2020
Turkey head into Euro 2020 as dark horses. It may be an overused, if not slightly cliche term, as pre-tournament underdogs rarely live up to expectations, but this side is genuinely very promising.
This is arguably the strongest Crescent-Stars side since Senol Gunes guided them to third place in the 2002 World Cup. Gunes is back at the helm and has built a side that took four points off World Champions France in qualifying.
Turkey v2.0 is built on defence. Which may seem odd if you have followed this team in the past; let’s just say defending was not this side’s forte. This new look Turkish side has a rock-solid back line, hard-working midfield and have a few goals in them.
They have gelled and formed a strong unit. It is likely that just one player over the age of 30 will be starting this summer so expect the core of this team to be around for the foreseeable future. Something special could be brewing. Keep a close eye on them this summer.
What would you say are your team’s major strengths?
Without a shadow of a doubt; defence. Sir Alex Ferguson famously said, “Attack wins you games, defence wins you titles”. Well this side managed to keep eight clean sheets and conceded just three goals in a tough qualification group including France and Iceland.
There is a wealth of quality and depth at the back with the likes of Caglar Soyuncu, Ozan Kabak, Merih Demiral, Mehmet Zeki Celik to name but a few. Turkey have a dogged back line that is difficult to break down, dominant in the air and an all-round nightmare for opposition strikers to play against.
And any weaknesses?
Despite defence being the strength of this side, the left-back position is a potential weakness. Umut Meras is not on the same level as the centre-backs and right-backs. Nineteen-year-old Besiktas rising star Ridvan Yilmaz has however, broken into the side and despite his lack of experience he could shine if given a chance.
Another weakness is that Turkey has lost some flair and creativity in midfield amid their pursuit of defensive stability.
Give us the lowdown on your team’s star player?
Caglar Soyuncu is undoubtedly the key cog in the team. The Leicester City star is a natural leader and installs confidence in the back line with his presence and defensive ability.
In addition to his defensive abilities, he is also adept on the ball. Probably a bi-product of spending his youth playing as a striker; a period in his life where Wayne Rooney was his footballing idol, Soyuncu is capable of spraying intricate passes and kicking off counter-attacking moves from deep.
And tell us about a player from your team who could be a breakthrough star at this tournament?
Most of the team is comprised of players that followers of top five leagues will probably be familiar with so I would go with Ozan Tufan. The box-to-box midfielder plays an important role in the side bridging defence with attack. He is a hard-working, dynamic player who is also capable of magic in the final third on his day.
Additionally, this could be a big tournament for the goalkeeper Ugurcan Cakir who has been targeted by several European clubs. And Yilmaz at left-back has had an impressive season for double winners Besiktas. He is aged just 19 and has a very bright future ahead of him.
How far do you think your team can go in this tournament?
Turkey have a side well-constructed for knock-out tournaments. The team will be difficult to break down. They may not have the same panache in midfield but this side is well organised and still have enough quality to play a possession game when necessary.
Burak Yilmaz has enjoyed a renaissance at Lille this season and enters the tournament with a great goal scoring record for club and country. The lack of depth upfront is a concern but the team is quite versatile in terms of finding goals from other avenues such as set-pieces and counter attacking moves. This is a well-balanced side with a watertight defence. I really think Turkey could go as far as the semi-finals; perhaps even further.
Easy one to finish with, who wins the tournament, and who do you think will be top scorer?
France will be the team to beat this summer but my top scorer is Burak Yilmaz.