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Turkey ready for world stage
After reaching their first UEFA European Championship in 1996 and making it to the quarter-final stage of the corresponding tournament in 2000, Turkey now seems set to make a mark on the world stage.
The success of Senol Gunes' team marks another encouraging step in the rebuilding process that has been taking place over the last ten years. He is reliant on a core group of key players, the bulk of which is drawn from the ever-improving Turkish First Division, primarily Istanbul-based perennial powers Galatasaray, Fenerbahçe, and Besiktas. The remainder play at the top level of other European leagues, making for a team which has the experience to cause problems for the world's best.
Inter Milan's Hakan Sukur, who began his career at Galatasaray, is the most accomplished Turkish player of all time and led the team in qualification with four goals. Fenerbahçe goalkeeper Rüstü Reçber played in all 10 qualifiers, allowing just eight goals, and Aston Villa defender Alpay Ozalan single-handedly carried the Turks in the home qualifier against Macedonia, notching a hat-trick.
While Sukur was a constant for the team over the ten qualifying games, Gunes experimented with a number of strike partners alongside him, including Galatasaray's Arif Erdem, Trabzonspor's Oktay Derelioglu, and Bayer Leverkusen's Yildiray Basturk.
Turkey also have great depth in their midfield, drawing on such players as UK-based wingers Muzzy Izzet and Kerimoglu Tugay as well as the talents of Galatasaray's Hasan Sas and Emre Belozoglu and Tayfur Havutcu of Besiktas.
Significant past players:
Metin Oktay, Can Bartu, Lefter Kucukandonyadis, Turgay Seren
-- First round playoff 1954 FIFA World Cup Switzerland
-- Quarter-final UEFA European Championship Belgium/The Netherlands 2000
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