A proud moment for the under-achievers

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By any criteria, Turkey are the great under-achievers of European football. With a population of 55 million, they ought to get a decent side together every once in a while just by the law of averages.

Their glory days, and we are clutching at trifles here, came in the 1950s when they twice qualified for the finals of the World Cup. In 1950, however, they did not go to Brazil because they could not afford the air fare and four years later in Switzerland, they failed to advance from their initial group. As for the European Championship, don't ask.

So it is not difficult to see why Turkish supporters load Fatih Terim with extravagant praise for actually getting the team to England for the finals.

It is not hard to see why the 42-year-old is known as the "soccer magician". Terim, who made 51 international appearances as a centre-back and sweeper, inherited a squad in July 1993 that had won only one of eight World Cup qualifying games (against San Marino) under the Dane, Sepp Piontek. Galatasaray, Turkey's leading club side, may have been causing embarrassment in Manchester, but the national side were a mess.

Terim's response was to drop 12 players from his squad for his first match, changing from a fragile 3-5-2 formation into a more robust 3-3- 2-2 system. In the past the Turks would charge forward, but were more reluctant to get back; now they are harder to break down.

The results have changed and so has the attitude. "I want a team who fight as if their lives depend on it," Terim said. "I want them to battle every time they go out to play."

The players have obviously listened because they have suffered only one competitive defeat since and qualified ahead of Sweden in their group. Only Switzerland beat them in that campaign, a reverse that was avenged in Berne last year.

Terim's team is drawn exclusively from four clubs - Galatasaray, Fenerbahce, Besiktas and Trabzonspor - with the German-born Oguz Cetin the playmaker. At 33 his stamina is suspect, but if he can endure then Hakan Sukur, who has 13 goals in 23 international appearances, is likely to profit.

Turkey are unlikely to progress beyond their initial group, but for them the taking part is truly an achievement in itself. As the followers of Manchester United and Aston Villa could testify, Turkish football is improving quickly.



Rustu Recber Fenerbahce

Sanver Goymen Altay

Adnan Erkan Ankaragucu


Alpay Ozalan Besiktas

Recep Cetin Besiktas

Bulent Korkmaz Galatasaray

Ogun Temizkanoglu Trabzonspor

Rahim Zafer Genclerbirligi


Tayfun Korkut Fenerbahce

Oguz Cetin Fenerbahce

Sergen Yalcin Besiktas

Tolunay Kafkas Trabzonspor

Abdullah Ercan Trabzonspor

Tugay Kerimoglu Galatasaray

Vedat Inceefe Karabukspor


Ertugrul Saglam Besiktas

Hami Mandirali Trabzonspor

Orhan Cikirikci Trabzonspor

Hakan Sukur Galatasaray

Arif Erdem Galatasaray

Saffet Sancakli Kocaelispor

Faruk Yigit Kocaelispor