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Wednesday, 26 June, 2002, 20:37 GMT 21:37 UK
Desolation in Istanbul
A weeping Turkish fan is comforted by a friend following their team's defeat in the World Cup
Turkish fans had tried to keep their faith

Believe it or not, there was partying on Taksim Square in Istanbul.

Fans were dancing, pausing only to yell out "Turkiye" in unison.

Dejected fans sit in a square in Istanbul
Will Turks now turn on their team, or remember how close they came?
But it is a shadow of what might have been.

Fans had begun the day radiating optimism - surely a team that had come so far against such odds could manage one more victory?

Flag and ribbons in the national colours of red and white were hawked on street corners around the central square.

Children with their hair shaved in the style of star Turkish winger Umit Davala darted from street to street.

Tension

Of course, everyone said they expected to win, but even though they know that Brazil were a formidable side - and that the world expected Turkey to lose - many Turks truly thought that the final was in their grasp.

In the crowd and the square the tension was almost unbearable.

For more than an hour before the game there had been cheering, singing and swaying.

Then, as the game started, the crowd fell almost silent, all eyes on the screen set up by Turkish television.

For the first half the near-silence continued, all eyes glued to the screen as time and time again the Brazilian side tested the formerly rock-solid Turkish defence.

For those first 48 minutes it was the Turkish goalkeeper Rustu Recber whose performance brought most noise to the square as he pounced on ball after ball.

Faith

When the half-time whistle went the crowd stayed silent still, as if stunned.

Turkish captain Hakan Sukur hides his disappointment following his team's defeat by Brazil
Turkey had come to expect great things from its football team

Turkey had once again shown up the critics; whatever the world might say, it had held its own against a polished Brazilian side.

The flags came out again, the music cranked up, the dancing started and with it the chants of "Turkiye, Turkiye".

An unseasonable rain brought steam off the hot pavement but the crowds could not have cared less.

But maybe the rain was a portent.

There was no initial despair when Ronaldo's goal went in. Turks have a lot of faith, and as their team came ever closer to the goal mouth it looked like that faith might be rewarded.

But it was not to be, and the crowd was winding down even before the match finished.

When the final whistle went, there were mixed feelings.

"Brazil deserved to win this match, coach Senol Gunes deserves criticism," said one fan.

"I feel more angry than sad," said another.

"What a tragedy."

Yet another was more positive: "Of course we are happy that we played the semi-finals. It shows the kind of level Turkish football has reached."

'Almost a dream'

Under a thick, grey sky, the crowd began to party, a sound system belting out music and a compere urging people gathered in the square to take part.

But - no surprise, really - it was a muted affair.

The thousands who watched the game in the surrounding streets have now melted away.

The traffic, closed off from the square on Saturday, is now circulating around it.

For many Turks, this World Cup has seemed like a dream, a wildly patriotic and football-mad country making almost unbelievable progress.

And now perhaps comes the test for the country: Will they turn on their team, berating it for its failures as they have done so often before, or will they remember how far they got, and how close they came?


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GROUP C
  P GD PTS
BRAZIL 3 +8 9
TURKEY 3 +2 4
COSTA RICA 3 -1 4
CHINA 3 -9 0

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