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Arda Turan talks Turkey, Terim and 2008

"I believe in my team-mates," Turkey captain Arda Turan told EURO2016.com as he prepared his young side for Friday's meeting with Spain, knowing their opponents "will have more of the ball".

Selçuk İnan, Arda Turan and Caner Erkin at Turkey's UEFA EURO 2016 base
Selçuk İnan, Arda Turan and Caner Erkin at Turkey's UEFA EURO 2016 base ©UEFA.com

EURO2016.com: Let's start with the Croatia game. What do you think went wrong?

Arda Turan: We were very disciplined tactically but Croatia are a better team than us and they're more experienced. To match them, we had to run more but we couldn't. However, this is a tournament and these things happen. The important thing is to get back on our feet and carry on. I hope we can play much more effectively against Spain.

Personally, I played badly and was ineffective. However, these things happen in life. I'll try my best to do better in the next match. But I really find it hard to understand the way people react at times – I've worn the shirt over 90 times, I have played badly a few times but you could count them on the fingers of one hand. I'm just trying to stand tall for my country and my national team.

EURO2016.com: Do you think the size of the occasion affected the team?

Arda: We don't have many players who have played at this level. It's natural that it might have affected us. I hope those nerves won't affect us next time. I believe in my team-mates – to qualify they accomplished great things and put in a lot of effort. I am proud of them.

EURO2016.com: Spain must be your toughest opponents on paper. How should Turkey approach this game?

Arda Turan keyed up for Spain
Arda Turan keyed up for Spain

Arda: Spain are favourites – they will have more of the ball. We're going to try our hardest to get a point, and if we can do that, our chances of going through will be very high. Spain are a very strong team but they still only play with 11 men like us. We're going to fight until the end.

I have lots of friends in the Spain team. That is the beauty of football. Nowadays everyone knows each other – video analysis has really developed – so I don't think that will be any sort of advantage or disadvantage.

EURO2016.com: How did you start out playing football?

Arda: I grew up in Bayrampasa [a suburb of Istanbul] and where we lived there was a culture of playing in the street. That was my biggest hobby in life. Then we began going to school, and as soon as I finished my homework I would go out and play with the other children. We did not know what it meant to be tired: started at 5pm, finished at 10pm.

There were days when I played against five people with only a goalkeeper behind me. I've always liked a challenge. I was a brave kid and I am the same now – I respect people but I am scared of no one. Neighbourhood matches, going to a neighbouring district for a match, playing football in any empty space – it was so much fun, but now kids cannot do it. Perhaps I belonged to the last generation that could.

EURO2016.com: Is playing for Turkey something special for you?

Turkey’s EURO star: Arda Turan
Turkey’s EURO star: Arda Turan

Arda: I absolutely love the national team – I love my country, so wearing the shirt is an honour for me. I am a leader of this team, but leadership does not mean what you think. There is a real democracy in our team. We share everything, discuss and talk about every subject. They know that I want the best for the team and that I try to apply Fatih Terim's instructions on the field.

EURO2016.com: How do you rate Fatih Terim as a coach?

Arda Turan: I had only played twice in the league when he first included me in the national team. He took me on at Galatasaray when I was 13 or 14. It is not just a player-coach relationship – we are like father and son. His daughters are my friends. His wife is someone I can call whenever I want. Fatih Terim is a special person for me.

He taught Turkish people how to win. Until the 1990s, Turkish football was based on defence. They did not win so much. Everyone says Fatih Terim is a master of motivation, but his tactical mastery bring that motivation. He gives such great tactical advice that players trust him – and motivation stems from that. He has my endless thanks for every day we have together as a team.

EURO2016.com: You were just 21 when you went to UEFA EURO 2008; what do you remember about Turkey's journey to the semi-finals?

Arda Turan: I cannot be modest about this, because whenever I think about it, I have tears in my eyes. It was an amazing tournament for us. We could have won it – we came very close. People did not believe in us when we went there but we showed everyone. We battled until the last minute of every match and, for me, we were the most entertaining team to watch in those finals.

My favourite moment? The winner Nihat [Kahveci] scored in the Czech Republic match [a 3-2 victory that took Turkey to the knockout phase]. As he hit the ball I was just behind him. The ball was going slightly over – you can see in the replays that I jump up slightly, willing the ball in, and then it drops. It was one of the best moments of my life. We were 2-0 down until the 75th minute, and we had to win to progress. We did it. It was beautiful.

Arda Turan gets a helping hand from Caner Erkin
Arda Turan gets a helping hand from Caner Erkin©UEFA.com