EURO 2024 Preview: Calhanoglu and Turkey ready to stun big names at home away from home

After a strong qualifying campaign, Turkey have every reason to be optimistic about their European Championship adventure
After a strong qualifying campaign, Turkey have every reason to be optimistic about their European Championship adventureAFP
With strong performances in previous European Championships, Turkey are not afraid of usurping big teams and going on a run. Back in the tournament for the third-straight time, they were pointless three years ago, but in familiar surroundings of Germany, can they finally live up to their perennial 'dark horse' tag?

Qualifying and draw

Turkey will start in Group F. They will face Portugal, the Czech Republic and Georgia.

This is the sixth time that the Turkish national team have taken part in a European Championship. The team made an excellent impression during qualifying. They left Croatia and Wales behind in the group stage and were one of the first teams to make it into the main draw.

Turkey's route to the tournament
Turkey's route to the tournamentFlashscore

Kuntz Factor

There is still a big piece of Stefan Kuntz in the Turkish team. The German was on the touchline for five of the eight qualifiers and helped 22 players make their debut before his dismissal in September 2023.

However, the dream of the European Championship on home soil was dashed when Kuntz was replaced by Italian Vincenzo Montella after mixed results. He wished "the Turkish national team and above all the Turkish people" a successful European Championship" despite the unpleasant ending.

Captain Calhanoglu

Born in Mannheim, Hakan Calhanoglu played in Germany until 2017 and could also have played for the German team, but opted for Turkey. When visiting his parents' homeland, he still sometimes feels "like an outcast and this situation hurts me", he recently revealed on TRT Sport.

That could change if Calhanoglu shines at the European Championships as he has done recently. The 30-year-old played perhaps the best season of his career at Inter, scoring 13 goals and becoming Italian champions. Calhanoglu's expectations for the European Championship are therefore clear: "Our goal is to win the title."

German Factor

Many of Calhanoglu's teammates also have a German influence: Kaan Ayhan was born in Gelsenkirchen, Can Uzun and his childhood friend Kenan Yildiz in Regensburg and Salih Ozcan in Cologne. BVB professional Ozcan even became European Under-21 champion in 2021 with Germany and had Kuntz as coach.

Ozan Kabak from Hoffenheim and Kenan Karaman from Schalke also played their part in the successful European Championship qualification. Hamit Altintop, who was born in Gelsenkirchen, is a board member of the Turkish Football Association.

Late Finishers

Turkey only managed to qualify for the European Championships for the first time in 1996. Since then, the team have been an almost permanent guest, with the semi-final in 2008 (3-2 against Germany) as their best result to date.

They qualified for the finals in Germany as group winners, just ahead of World Cup bronze medallists Croatia and Wales. The 1-0 win in Croatia on the debut of Kuntz's successor Montella proved decisive.

Follow Turkey throughout the Euros with Flashscore.

Potential starting XI

Gunok; Ayhan, Demiral, Bardakci, Kadioglu; Calhanoglu, Ozcan; Guler, Yildiz, Akturkoglu; Yilmaz.


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