ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish fans worried that their side have been drawn in one of Euro 2016’s toughest groups can take comfort from the events of 2008 when Turkey reached the semi-finals of the tournament.
Two of their Group D opponents this time, Czech Republic and Croatia, lost to Turkey in dramatic fashion eight years ago.
First Turkey rallied from 2-0 down to beat the Czechs 3-2 and reach the quarter-finals, then they produced an even more stunning fightback against Croatia.
Having fallen behind in the penultimate minute of extra time, Turkey levelled with the final kick of the game and went on to win a penalty shootout in Vienna.
If they are to reach the knockout stages this time — Spain are also in their group — they will need all that famed resilience, which they also showed in qualifying.
After taking only one point from their opening three games, the Turks got their campaign on track with a 3-1 home win over Kazakhstan and a 1-1 draw against the Netherlands, the team at whose expense they eventually progressed.
Turkey’s revival culminated with a 3-0 home rout of the Dutch followed by a 2-0 win in the Czech Republic and a 1-0 home defeat of Iceland.
Turkey qualified as the best third-placed team from the nine qualifying groups, albeit with a slice of luck as results went their way in the other groups in the final round.
Captain Arda Turan, talented 22-year playmaker Hakan Calhanoglu and striker Burak Yilmaz, who joined Chinese top division side Beijing Guoan after four years at Galatasaray, are the team’s backbone.
Most of Turkey’s squad play in the country’s 18-team first division, with Istanbul rivals Fenerbahce, Besiktas and Galatasaray providing the core.
That makes for a compact and well-drilled unit whose midfield, also boasting Borussia Dortmund’s Nuri Sahin and Galatasaray’s Selcuk Inan, is their strongest suit.
Turkey will bank on the vast experience of their talismanic 62-year-old coach Fatih Terim, who was also at the helm in 2008 when their adventurous football won the hearts of many neutral fans at the tournament.
Reporting by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by Neil Robinson