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Saturday, 22 June, 2002, 17:55 GMT 18:55 UK
Turkey join the world's elite
Turkey have several talented individuals
Tugay is a solid influence in Turkey's team

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In reaching the World Cup semi-finals South Korea have confounded the sceptics and shocked the footballing world.

But lets not forget about Turkey.

Given their pre-tournament odds of 66-1, Turkey's achievement in reaching the last four does not trail too far behind.

After all, Senol Gunes' team began the tournament with little World Cup pedigree.

They last qualified for the finals in 1954 and spent a large period of the intervening 48 years as one of European football's whipping boys.

For many teams the most difficult aspect of a game against Turkey was keeping count.

Manager Senol Gunes has impressed as Turkey's manager
Manager Senol Gunes is ecstatic with his team's progress
But Turkey have been making steady progress over the last decade and have finally emerged as a team equipped to compete at the highest level.

Evidence of their improvement on the international stage was clear to see at Euro 2000.

After losing their opening game 2-1 to eventual finalists Italy, the Turks bounced back to draw with Sweden and defeat host nation Belgium - qualifying from their group at a major tournament for the first time.

They may have lost to a hugely talented Portugal in their quarter-final but went home instilled with the self-belief that they could compete with Europe's top teams.

And the advances made by the international team have also been mirrored at domestic level.

European watershed

Turkish sides have always suffered from acute travel sickness, never making the progress in European competition that their home form suggested they were capable of.

Then came the watershed.

Galatasaray defeated Arsenal in Copenhagen to win the 2000 Uefa Cup final- the first ever European trophy won by a Turkish club.

It was a real shot in the arm for Turkish football, a win that smashed any nagging doubts that their teams were not able to topple Europe's major players.

Umit Davala is one of several key players in Turkey's team
Davala has been in great form for Turkey
This confidence and belief has been carried through to the World Cup and expresses itself through a talented group of players.

For a long time Turkish football has been associated with Hakan Sukur, the country's most famous player and a man who is so revered at home his wedding was broadcast live on national television.

Yet Sukur has been in dire form at the World Cup and - most unusually - was substituted during the quarter-final against Senegal.

Instead, Turkey's progress to the last four at the World Cup has been built around several key players who have benefitted from playing their club football outside Turkey.

Emre Belozoglu and Umit Davala play in Serie A, Yildiray Basturk is based in Germany while Alpay Ozalan, Hakan Unsal and Kerimoglu Tugay ply their trade in the English Premiership.

They may not be household names but they are quality players determined to succeed.

Gunes' team knocked out another of the World Cup's pleasant suprises, Senegal, in the quarter-final - and now get the chance to avenge defeat by Brazil in their opening game of the tournament.

After their controversial 2-1 defeat - during which Turkey conceded a controversial 87th minute penalty - Gomes said: "There is an injustice in the result, I have to say that, an injustice."

But his team bounced back, drawing against Costa Rica and beating China to scrape out of their group before despatching Japan in the second round.

Whether Turkey can spring another major surprise by defeating the favourites is open to question.

But what is not in doubt is that Turkey have moved out of the shadow of the emerging nations and into the spotlight of the world's elite.


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

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