Population: 66,400,000
Area: 780,580 km²
Capital: Ankara
Language: Turkish

Turkey lost the two-horse race with Sweden for the top position in UEFA group 4, but qualified anyway after beating Austria comfortably in the play-offs.
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Participations: (1) 1954
Best placing: First round 1954
Topscorers: Mamat Suat and Sargun Burhan, 3 goals

Jun 03 - TUR v BRA  in Ulsan
Jun 09 - TUR v CRC  in Incheon
Jun 13 - TUR v CHN  in Seoul

Hakan Sükür is Turkey's national hero and everyone expects him to score the goals to carry the team to the knock-out stages. His strength is mainly in the air, but he is also quite comfortable with the ball at his feet in addition to having a nose for goal.

WCA VERDICT: Through to KO stage
We believe Turkey will edge out China and Costa Rica to follow Brazil into the knock-out part of the tournament. Turkey have developed into a highly competitive team in recent years and impressed from time to time in Euro 2000 coming through a trickier preliminary group than this one.


by Ruud Doevendans

    The Turks showed some mental toughness in the qualification stages. They were virtually qualified leading 1-0 in the home match against Sweden, when they conceded two late goals. Sweden went to Asia, Turkey had to go into the play-offs. A big disappointment for soccer-mad Turkey, but in these two games against Austria they had no troubles at all. A 1-0 win away in Vienna was followed by a smashing 5-0 at home. Turkey qualified for the first time since 1954. And it’s well deserved, because Turkey has a nice team and I am glad that they will be at the World Cup. They have improved year by year and are now among the top 10 nations in Europe.

    Turkey have drawn an easy group, although they are not in the position to underestimate anyone. But Turkey should be capable of beating both China and Costa Rica, and on a given day should not necessarily be without a chance against a Brazil that’s not at their peak. Qualifying in this group will bring them against an opponent from group H (Japan, Belgium, Russia, Tunisia). Another match that is open. An occasional quarterfinal will be the end of the show, because in that case they will most likely face Argentina. Turkey is not that good yet to surprise the real top teams.

    They have a lot of good players. The thing is, let them play as a team. In that respect, it was a very good sign that they could withstand the pressure in the play-off after being so disappointed against the Swedes. Rüstü is a good goalkeeper. He must take care of staying healthy, because I haven’t seen any other Turkish goalie who is near to his quality. In defence new coach Senol Gunes (he was a great goalie in his days) recalled Bülent, the Galatasaray-captain. When Alpay is fit, he is another certain choice. If he’ s not, Senol could turn to Emre Asik. Ogün will lead the defence. Turkey usually plays a 5-3-2, and the wingbacks can be Ümit Davala or Tayfun at right, and Hakan Ünsal or Abdullah left. Especially Abdullah is a very gifted player with a smoot left foot, but he lacks some velocity.

    Another recall in midfield. Tugay came back, and he’s a fine midfielder. He is strong on the ball, has vision and can direct the play. There are a lot of workhorses in midfield, Okan a certainty although the Internazionale-midfielder has not had much time on the field this year. Furthermore, there is Tayfur, Ergün and Mehmet. All of them useful, but nothing special beyond that. At the left side of midfield, Hasan Sas can do a lot of damage to opponents, although he tries so many difficult things that most of them end up without success. It’s too bad that Sergen, a beautifully gifted player although he lacks a bit mentality, will not play in Asia. He is injured, and coaches don’t seem to like his style of play. He’s just the kind of player Turkey needs, although I am the first to be critical when a player won’t do his work. And that’s what is often the case with Sergen. He’ s the Turkish Okocha or Djalminha. Every fan loves them, but coaches get insane because of them.

    In attack, they still have the big man Hakan Sükür. Topscorer of Turkey, but he never played a major role abroad although he was at some big clubs in Italy. Strange. This Hakan has a lot. He’s tall, strong, still rather quick and he can finish. But he needs a lot of movement around him, and that’s not what you get at most Italian clubs. Still, his record for Turkey is impressive. He could be partnered by Arif (a veteran), Ümit Karan, Nihat, Ilhan or even Leverkusen-man Yildiray Bastürk, who has made his name this year.

    We're looking forward to the Turkish contribution. A good team with a lot of emotion. Don’t expect them to be title contenders, but they are good for a little surprise.


by Jan Alsos

    Turkey have only qualified for one World Cup, Switzerland 1954, but were eliminated in the first round having been involved in some high-scoring games. West Germany won the first round play-off 7-2 after Turkey themselves had demolished South Korea 7-0.



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