Team profile: Turks hope to make it to quarters
Istanbul: Turkey displayed a Jekyll and Hyde set of performances in qualifying for Euro 2008 and they will be earnestly hoping that if they produce their earlier form they can emulate the 2000 squad and at least make the quarter-finals.
However a repeat of their poor displays especially against Bosnia and Malta would see them realistically returning home early and to what could be a hostile reception from the football-mad country.
For just as Indian and Pakistani cricketers have their effigies regularly burned after a poor result so Turkish fans expect the highest level of performances from their side. There will be no lacking in motivation for a squad that has effectively been shorn over the past few years of the members of the side that did so outstandingly well to reach the 2002 World Cup semi-finals, though, two prominent members of the team remain in Emre and Yildiray Basturk.
In Fatih Terim they have as fired up a coach as one could imagine and his opening meeting with the Portugal coached by the equally volatile Felipe Scolari could well set the tempo for the group. It is the second group match, though, that promises to provoke fireworks and will be watched nervously by the organisers and governing body UEFA as co-hosts Switzerland take them on in a match that could prove pivotal as to which one progresses. As if that doesn’t present a tense enough atmosphere then there is the revenge factor as in their last meeting.
The Swiss ousted the Turks in the 2006 World Cup finals play-off which provoked disgraceful scenes with the Turkish players attacking several of their Swiss opponents. However when the Turks keep a cool head they are a difficult team to take on and their pulsating 4-1 defeat of reigning champions Greece in Athens earlier in the qualifiers illustrated how good they can be on their day.
In Emre and Basturk they have two solid and experienced campaigners but it will be Villarreal’s marksman Nihat Kahveci that they will be looking to for goals and for attacking inspiration.