Turkey had one point, a leaky defence and dwindling UEFA EURO 2016 hopes after three games but a goal in the penultimate minute of qualifying sent them through. So what happened?
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A year ago, Turkey's UEFA EURO 2016 hopes had almost been written off. One point from the opening three games represented their worst start to a qualification campaign since the 1990 FIFA World Cup. Exactly 365 days on from a 1-1 draw against Latvia, though, Turkey punched their ticket to France. So what happened?
Belief and experience
"After the Latvia game we said, 'It isn't over until we say it's over,'" said Fatih Terim. "It is easy to say that now, but it was not so easy back then." It helped, of course, that Terim was no stranger to remarkable recoveries. He was at the helm in Turkey's last finals, at UEFA EURO 2008, where three comeback victories helped them through to the semis.
Belief has always been there according to Arda Turan, a veteran of the 2008 campaign. After beating Kazakhstan in their fourth outing, it was the midfielder who said: "We have completed many comebacks in the past, so why not again?" That spirit sustained them until the 89th minute against Iceland when, down to ten men, Selçuk İnan curled in a magical free-kick.
Terim also made a few adjustment after the initial three games, most crucially tightening things in a back line that had conceded six goals. They shipped just three in the remaining seven. Hakan Balta and Serdar Aziz have formed a formidable central defensive partnership, the bedrock of a team that ended with four clean sheets in five games.
Credit, too, to Volkan Babacan. Onur Kıvrak and Tolga Zengin each had a game before Terim handed İstanbul Başakşehir keeper Volkan his first cap for the Latvia draw. He grew game by game and after eight competitive matches he has been beaten only four times. Not bad for a 27-year-old who was playing in the second tier two seasons ago.
Arda and İnan
Hakan Çalhanoğlu and Oğuzhan Özyakup, 21 and 23 respectively, have brought youthful endeavour to the team but it is Arda and İnan who carry Turkish hopes. Arda scored two and set up three over the last five games, while Galatasaray's İnan struck three crucial goals in Turkey's final four games, allied to his ever-reliable distribution in midfield.
"We played six games with a noose around our necks," said Arda. "It was not easy at all." Yet Turkey once again found a way.