Türkiye / Turkey
- Capital: Ankara
- Official Languages: Turkish
- Nicknames: Ay-Yıldızlılar (The Crescent-Stars)
- Association: Türkiye Futbol Federasyonu (TFF)
- FIFA Code: TUR
- Best World Cup Result (Men): Third Place (2002)
- Best World Cup Result (Women): Not Qualified
- Best Euros Result (Men): Semi Finals (2008)
- Best Euros Result (Women): Not Qualified
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Men): 5th (June 2004)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Women): 54th (March 2017)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Men): 67th (October 1993)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Women): 72nd (December 2006)
- Most Capped Player: Rüştü Reçber – 120 caps
- Top Scorer: Hakan Şükür – 51 goals
The Republic of Turkey is situated in Europe’s southwestern corner, with the country historically and culturally being the crossroads between Europe and Asia. Despite the vast majority of the country being geographically part of western Asia, Turkey has always looked westwards in its views, with it’s biggest city (as well as its cultural and footballing capital) of Istanbul situated on the tip of the European continent, and thus Turkey compete in UEFA competitions. Football was brought to the country as early as 1895 when it was still part of the Ottoman Empire, but they wouldn’t join FIFA until 1923 when Turkey sprung free from the old Ottoman regime. The 1950s were a good time for Turkey when they first qualified for the 1950 World Cup, but were unable to compete in Brazil due to financial problems and had to pull out. However they qualified for their first tournament in 1954 when it was held in Switzerland, and finished third in the group after losing to West Germany in a playoff game to determine which team progressed to the next round. Alas it would last time Turkey would appear in a World Cup for nearly 50 years, with Turkey descending to become one of the weaker teams in European qualification.
Things would improve for the country’s national team in the 1990s when a talented generation developed and managed to propel the side to the 1996 European Championships (42 years after their last tournament), and then qualified for the following Euros, where they surprisingly reached the quarter-finals ahead of co-hosts Belgium. However Turkey’s greatest football triumph would occur two years later in the 2002 World Cup. Surprising everyone, and with their golden generation coming to their prime, they managed to brush aside co-hosts Japan and Senegal on their way to the semi-finals before losing by a single goal to eventual winners Brazil. They would subsequently finish in third position when they beat the other co-host, South Korea, 3-2 to complete an unbelieable tournament. Sadly since their heroics in East Asia, they have yet to qualify for a World Cup since and have only had two appearances in their entire World Cup history. However they have been more successful in the European Championship, qualifying for the 2008 edition and reaching the semi-finals of the competition before having their run ended by Germany 2-3 in one of the Euros greatest games. They have since qualified for Euro 2016, finishing third in their group behind Croatia and Spain, and have qualified for the upcoming 2020/21 European Championships. With a group containing Italy, Switzerland and Wales, in conjunction with another talented generation looking to progress through, there are high hopes that Turkey could perhaps match the performances of 2002 and 2008 this coming summer…
Talking about a side who finished in third place during the 2002 World Cup and the semi-finals of the 2008 European Championship, and seem to have a talented generation of players coming through, is the excellent Elnur Kuliev from the Twitter account and blogsite Turkish Football News. As the name suggests, the blog and Twitter account covers all things involving Turkish football in the English language. To find their social media accounts and website, follow the links below:
Q. Who would you say is your country’s best player and coach/manager of all-time, and the reasonings behind the choices?
The Turkish national team’s successful results have only started coming since Euro’ 96, which was their first major tournament they have qualified for, whilst before that, Turkey were having pretty unsuccessful results. Hence, when talking about successes, we need to focus from 1996 onwards. Even through it’s hard to name just one specific player, I would go with Arda Turan who played an important role for Turkey in getting to the semi-finals of the 2008 European Championships with finding goals and producing an overall good performance. During this period of his performance in the national side, he also played an important role for various historical results achieved by the Turkish national team whilst also being the team’s captain.
The best coach of the Turkish national team would be Fatih Terim as he became the first coach to manage Turkey to qualification for a major tournament (Euro ’96), got to the semi-finals of Euro 2008, and led his side to qualification for Euro 2016. He is known to be one of the few head coaches in Turkey who knows how to motivate players and show top performances. In addition, he is refered to as “İmparator” (“The Emperor“) mainly due to successes with Galatasaray, such as winning league titles between 1996-2000, and winning the UEFA Cup in 2000, among others acolades.
Q. Who could be regarded as a ‘cult hero’ in terms of the national team both in the past and present?
It is hard to name just one single player who would be seen as a cult hero as almost all successes did come with strong team-work with some players becoming heroes for one single game, with their names being associated with those games, but when looking long term, it’s hard to give any specific names. When looking overall, it’s significant to say that coach Fatih Terim could be seen as a cult hero due to successes which he brought as coach from 1996. Whenever he was appointed as Turkey’s coach, a position which he took several times [currently up to three times], it was expected that the team would show good results whilst giving high hopes to supporters, with most of time him being able to fulfill it.
Q. Of the current team, who would you say is the best player in the Turkish national side currently?
In my view, the best player in the current team is defender Merih Demiral, who currently plays for Juventus, and is one of the few Turkish players who plays at a top side which is fighting for a national league title. In addition, he also gives all of his best during games. Saying that players like Çağlar Söyüncü [centre-back at Leicester City] and Hakan Çalhanoğlu [attacking midfielder currently at AC Milan] should not be forgotten too.
Q. How would you describe the current state/performance of the national team?
The Turkish national team is an interesting side as it tends to play with emotions especially as it tends to either show high-level games back-to-back, or quite the opposite. Hence, we tend not to see great continuity. For instance, it provided great performances without losing to France during the Euro 2020 qualifiers, but in the following UEFA Nations League, we ended the group on the bottom of the table. Therefore, it’s hard to know the exact condition as it changes with some circumstances. However, coming to potential, it has one of the best squads it ever had especially with players who play outside Turkey. With a great performance, focus, and without any potential external issues, Turkey can potentially get good results at Euro 2020 this summer.
Q. Are there any Turkish players who you think we should be focusing on for the future – who would you say is the most exciting up & coming talent from the country?
18-year old Ali Akman is providing lots of potential as he has produced very good performances with Bursaspor in the First League [Turkey’s second tier] becoming one of the leaders in the side. The fact that all the top clubs in the Turkish Süper Lig wanted to sign him in the last transfer window shows his potential, as does the fact that he is confirmed to be moving to the German Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt in the summer transfer window. Playing currently with the under-21 national team, he has all the potential to become a future star of the national side.
Q. Looking at Turkey’s international history, what would you say has been the best game, result or performance for the national team in your opinion?
Ending the 2002 World Cup in 3rd place, and reaching the Euro 2008 semi-finals, are both the best results for the side, and I would say the importance and significance of both of these outcomes are measured in same amount. Coming into these tournaments without much expectations, they showed their top game by earning important wins whilst giving their best effort during the games and fighting until the end; something which was praised by the media from around world. Sadly, as Turkey proved itself to be a strong football nation, it didn’t continue in this manner in the following years, which once again connects to a continuity issue that was mentioned in the previous answer.
Q. Likewise, is there a performance or result which is regarded as the team’s lowest point?
Well, unfortunately for the Turkish national team supporters there are many times where the lowest point has existed. Prior to Euro 1996, Turkey tended to be in low points during qualification with not having much hopes to reach to any major tournaments. Another factor, after successful results at major tournaments, it is often common for Turkey to lose to the lowest ranked sides in groups, such as Moldova and Latvia, which resulted in being unable to breakdown closed and solid defences. More recently, after qualifing for Euro 2020 with some successful results, it was highly unexpected to then be relegated in the UEFA Nations League League B [to the third-tier of European football after finishing bottom of the group]. Saying that, possibly not qualifying for Euro 2004 after losing to underdogs Latvia [2-3 on aggregate] in the playoffs, would be seen as a pretty low result for sure.
Q. What are the best and worst things about being a fan of the Turkish national team?
I guess the best thing and worst thing for Turkish national team supporters is this lack of continuity as some tournaments or games, it can make you highly proud of national side, while on the other side, it just provides nervousness and dissapointment due to poor results.
Q. Have the fans adopted some kind of unofficial anthem to sing along to before/during/after matches?
There is no real unofficial anthem for the national team compared to that of the football clubs, with the supporters normally chanting “Turkey, Turkey” during national games. However, there was a World Cup 2002 official anthem by leading pop singer Tarkan – ‘Bir Oluruz Yolunda‘, which is seen as best song ever to be recorded for the national side.
Q. Do you have a favourite or iconic shirt from the whole time of the national team?
The football shirt from 1950, which is been regarded as the first football shirt of the side, with it being white with a red rectangle on the chest area, and the crescent and star upon the rectangle, is a classic and most people’s favourite shirt with the association it has with Turkish flag. This is by far the most iconic shirt. Meanwhile, the current shirt has been designed with a reference to that historical shirt.
Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of the Turkish national team?
As it been previously stated, it is hard to predict the future of the national side due to a continual lack of continuity. However, Turkish football is going through a great period with many young players at almost all areas of the pitch, especially in the defensive area, which has historically tended to be most problematic area of previous squads. With many players playing outside Turkey, and with more younger players likely to progress there in future, it also raises the level of players as the national league is not on same level currently.
A massive çok teşekkür ederim to Elnur from Turkish Football News for answering our questions on Ay-Yıldızlılar. Remember you can find their excellent accounts in the links at the top of the blogpage.
If you have any comments, suggestions, reactions, or even your own answers to the above questions, please write them in the comments box below. Likewise, you can either email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a message at @The94thMin on Twitter.