The Crescent Stars

The Crescent Stars, the Emperors and the Ottomans – few names associated with a nation that has delivered some unforgettable moments in International football. Turkey missed out on the chance to qualify for the Euros in 2012, especially after the amazing run in the previous edition beating stronger nations like Czech Republic and Croatia in the dying minutes and eventually qualifying to the semifinals. Although their start in the qualification stages of the Euro 2016 wasn’t as expected and as I previously had mentioned how Fatih Terim was on the verge of getting the sack after pendulous results, yet once again, Turks were able to cast their genie-esque spell to win the final three games inscribing their names into the draw for the Finals in France.

It was only a few days ago when the draw for the Euro 2016 was announced at Palais des Congres in Paris. The 24 nations were drawn into six groups of four teams each, while the hosts were mechanically placed in position A1. The remaining teams were seeded into four pots of five (Pot 1) and six teams (Pots 2, 3 and 4). According to the UEFA National Team coefficient, Turkey was placed in Pot 4 hence, it looked risky for Terim’s men to a point where imaginations of the various permutations ran wild in the head of the officials. They could have landed the group of death but the Superior Being had listened to all the prayers and Turkey was drawn in Group D with title holders Spain, Czech Republic and Croatia. There was a sense of euphoria, if one can use the term here. Turkish National Team Captain, Arda Turan, seemingly optimistic with the draw was quoted on Twitter saying, “Tough draw. Strong teams. But football is a game where 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and Turkey has the final word. 😉 “.

If we take a look at Turkey’s last five games, the Turks had scored 8 conceding only one. Great. A stat that will ease the minds of the Turkish supporters however it will not be all that easy in France. Turkey must be well focused, well prepared and ready to fight until the referee blows the final whistle.

Just for the sake of realistically assuming, let’s say Turkey loses their second game against the La Roja Furia, a win in the opener against Croatia will be the first step in their path to qualification. Croatia is well known for their opulent options in the midfield which consists the likes of Ivan Raktic, Luca Modric, Kovacic and Ivan Presic. In fact Croatia only lost one game in their Euro qualifiers but we shall not forget that moment in 2008 when Semih Senturk scored a last minute equalized allowing Turkey to go on to penalties and win the game.

From an analytical perspective, Turkey should field three midfielders instead of the usual two. Seluck Inan, Nuri Sahin and Mehmet Topal seem perfect, at least on paper, with all three capable of putting a dent in any set-up play from the Croatians. A concerning disadvantage, however, surrounds Sahin’s fitness as he recuperates from his injury. Additionally, Juventus’ striker Marko Mandzukic seems to be the only viable threat to the Turkish defenders as age is catching up with Ivica Olic while Kramaric and Ante Rebic are yet to be tested at a competitive level internationally. The 33-year-old Veteran defender Srna with enormous levels of experience, will be ready to take down playmaker and captain Arda Turan, quite possibly making it hard on Turkey’s bearded regista.

A quick flashback into Euro 2008 and we see Turkey facing Czech Republic in the last game of group stage. Turkey was able to initiate a hell of a comeback after going down by two, and I am quite sure Peter Cech is still haunted by that strike from Nihat Kaveci. Hence history could repeat itself as Turkey is scheduled to face the Czech’s in the last group stage game. It is noteworthy to mention that the two had met twice in the Euro 2016 Qualification, with each winning their away games. Regardless, Gokhan Tore will be back to action after his suspension, a huge boost for Fatih Terim since the Besiktas midfielder is enjoying a great domestic season with most recent achievement being the winner against Istanbul and Galatasaray. The 23-year-old winger has yet to score his first goal with the national team but most importantly his ability to dribble and win one on one battles could give turkey more options up front.

Previously I expected Turkey to implement a 4-2-3-1 tactic but in France, I’d suggest a 4-3-3 with Volkan Babacan on goal and Gokhan Gonul and Caner Erkin on either wings. Serdar Aziz to partner with Semih Kaya as Center backs. The presence of Seluck is important and based on his quality, leadership and defensive skills, I would place him in the middle with either two of Nuri Sahin, Mehmet Topal, Ozyakup on his side. On the offensive end, FC Barcelona’s Arda Turan will lead the attack beside Bayer Leverkusen’s youngster Hakan Calhanoglu and Galatasaray’s scoring machine Burak Yilmaz.

Gokhan Tore, Ozan Tufan and Yunus Malli also to be featured in upcoming games as the Turks seek to identify youngsters who are consistent performers. A final positive for the nation is the aerial prowess of Burak Yilmaz who can capitalize on the set-piece ability of players like Ekici and Calhanoglu’s. Well, for now, as a fan, I would only hope that the Crescent Stars go the distance in France.

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