Turkey Profile

Year Founded 1923

The Turkey national team, nicknamed 'The Crescent-Stars' have often be known to shock in major competitions. However, pre-tournament optimism ahead of Euro 2020 was sadly misplaced.

In 2002, Turkey stunned the world by finishing third in the 2002 FIFA World Cup in Japan and South Korea.

They have since enjoyed sporadic spells of success against more illustrious opponents. In 2008, they had a successful European Championship campaign, exiting the Euros in Austria and Switzerland at the semi-final stage.

Formation and early years

Turkey played their first international in 2002 in a 2-2 home draw with Romania in Istanbul. Zeki Rezi Sporel scored both goals for Turkey and is considered the first big star of the Turkish national team.

Turkey played their first competitive match at the 1924 Olympics in a 5-2 defeat to Czechoslovakia.

Success in the 1940s and 1950s

In 1948, Turkey reached the quarter-finals of the soccer tournament at the London Olympics.

They qualified for the 1950 FIFA World Cup tournament, but were forced to withdraw due to financial constraints.

Formation of Turkey's national football team prior to a match against Germany during the 1954 FIFA World Cup in Switzerland.

Turkey once again made the quarter-finals at the Olympic Games in Finland in 1952. In 1954, they participated in their first ever FIFA World Cup, suffering a group-stage exit. In 1956, Turkey beat a famously strong Hungary team 3-1 in a friendly.

In 1958, Israel qualified for the tournament in Sweden ahead of Turkey, Indonesia and Sudan after all three refused to participate in qualifying. Turkey protested after having been placed in the African/Asian zone rather than the European Zone, hence their withdrawal.

The barren years

In the 1960s, despite the establishment of a national league and success for Turkish clubs, the national team struggled. They went on to narrowly miss out on qualification for Euro 1972 and 1976. In the 1980s, they suffered their heaviest defeats of all time, losing 8-0 on two occasions to England and once to Poland.

Late 1980s and 1990s

Turkey's qualification campaign for the 1990 World Cup saw the national team turn a corner to some degree. They only missed out on qualification in the final game.

During this time, the team boasted big-name players such as Ridvan Dilmen, Oguz Cetin, Riza Calimbay, Feyyaz Ucar, and European Golden Boot winner Tanju Colak. At the time, Colak was on the books of Turkish giants Galatasaray, for whom he scored at a strike rate of roughly a goal per game for over the course of four years.

German coach Sepp Piontek took charge of the national team in 1990 and ushered in a new era of players, including Bulent Korkmaz, Alpay Ozalan, Sergen Yalcin, Rustu Recber, and Hakan Sukur, which would become the spine of the national team for years to come.

In 1993, Piontek was replaced by Fatih Terim, who guided Turkey to Euro 1996, their first ever European Championship and their first major tournament appearance since 1954.

Turkey lost all of their matches at Euro 1996 without scoring. However, the Fair Play award was given to Alpay Ozalan. This was given due to him allowing Goran Vlaovic to run half the length of the field without fouling him as Croatia scored the only goal of the game via a counter-attack.

Turkey once again qualified for Euro 2000, despite missing out on the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France.

In the group stage of Euro 2000, they lost 2-1 to Italy, drew 0-0 with Sweden, and beat host nation Belgium 2-0, eliminating them from the tournament and qualifying for the quarter-finals. In the last eight, Turkey were beaten 2-0 to Portugal. Their cause was not helped by Arif Erdem failing to convert an opportunity from the penalty spot.

The first year of the new millennium was also the year in which Senol Gunes took over as manager of the Turkish national team.

2002 World Cup campaign

Turkey finished second in their qualifying group for the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan, qualifying via the play-offs thanks to a 6-0 aggregate victory over Austria.

After starting the World Cup finals with a 2-1 group stage defeat to Brazil, Turkey progressed to the next round with a 3-0 win over China PR and a 1-1 draw with Costa Rica.

Turkey beat co-hosts Japan 1-0 in the round of 16 and then eliminated Senegal 1-0 thanks to a golden goal, booking their spot in the semi-finals, where they once again faced Brazil.

After a 1-0 defeat, they had to settle for a third-placed play-off against South Korea. Turkey won 3-2 to clinch bronze - their best ever World Cup performance. Hakan Sukur scored Turkey's first goal at 10.8 seconds against South Korea, making it the fastest goal in World Cup history.

Rustu Recber, Alpay Ozalan and Hasan Sas made the All-Star Team for the tournament, while Recber was also voted as the best goalkeeper in the UEFA Team of the Year 2002. Senol Gunes was voted as the best manager.

The modern era (2002-present)

At the 2003 FIFA Confederations Cup in France, Turkey finished in third place. Tuncay scored three goals and picked up an assist, which won him the Silver Shoe Award as well as the Silver Ball Award for the second best player of the tournament.

Turkey made the semi-finals of UEFA Euro 2008 in Austria and Switzerland, their best ever performance at the European Championships. After losing 2-0 to Portugal in their opening group stage game, they rallied back to beat Switzerland 2-1 and the Czech Republic 3-2 to qualify for the quarter-finals, where they faced Croatia.

Control match between National football teams of Russia and Turkey at

After forcing a penalty shootout against Croatia with a late equaliser from Semih Senturk, they won it and advanced to the semi-finals, where they lost 3-2 to Germany.

Turkey failed to qualify for the 2006, 2010, 2014 and 2018 World Cup tournaments. They made the group stage of Euro 2016 and managed to qualify for Euro 2020. Qualification for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar got off to a bright start and there were hopes Turkey could do some damage at the delayed Euros.

However, defeats to ItalyWales and Switzerland saw them bow out of the competition at the group stage.

Turkey legends

Rustu Recber and Hakan Sukur are probably the two most influential players in Turkish history. Rustu is famous for wearing war paint during matches. This was copied by South African goalkeeper Wayne Sandilands in years to come.


Turkish fans are known for being passionate in defence of their teams, while violence has also been a problem in the past at Turkish club matches in particular.


Turkey's major rivalries are with Croatia and Greece. They controversially eliminated Croatia from Euro 2008 after scoring a late equaliser which opposition manager Slaven Bilic claimed had come after extra time had elapsed.

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