Ahead of his international debut, Cenk Tosun tells UEFA.com about his meteoric rise from Bundesliga reserve to Turkey's in-form striker and why he wants to be the next Hakan Şükür.
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Cenk Tosun has been blazing a trail in the Turkish Süper Lig since swapping Eintracht Frankfurt for Gaziantepspor in January. After eight goals in nine league and cup outings, the 19-year-old German-born forward is set to complete the leap from Bundeliga reserve to senior international as Turkey host Austria in Tuesday's UEFA EURO 2012 Group A qualifier. He tells UEFA.com about his meteoric rise.
UEFA.com: You have committed to playing for Turkey although you represented Germany at youth level. Was it a difficult decision?
Cenk Tosun: It was not an easy decision. I was born and grew up in Germany but feel 100% Turkish. Talking with [Turkey coach] Guus Hiddink made a big impact on my decision. He said positive things, including how he wants to see me in the future. I also consulted my club president, coach and family before making a final decision.
I played for Germany from Under-15 to Under-21 level. That was proof of the special regard they hold me in – they had plans for me. But I always said I would pick Turkey in the end. I immediately called my Germany Under-21 coach [Rainer Adrion] after making up mind. He was obviously disappointed but everybody from that side was understanding.
UEFA.com: Turkey have gone four games without a goal. Are you the solution to the problem?
Cenk: Despite some quality forwards we have had problems in front of goal. I am 19 and hope to serve the national team for at least ten years, replicating my Gaziantepspor performance for the national team. It would be great to have a career similar to Hakan Şükür, making my name known everywhere. He was an unbelievable player.
UEFA.com: Do you feel under pressure because of the high expectations?
Cenk: To be honest I don't. Gaziantepspor had problems in attack before signing me, a situation similar to our problem with the national team. I have confidence in myself after what I achieved for my club.
UEFA.com: What do you think about Austria?
Cenk: Normally, Austria are a very good team but they were quite poor against Belgium [on Friday], losing 2-0. I like Ümit Korkmaz, my former team-mate in Frankfurt. FC Twente's Mark Janko is also dangerous up front. Marko Arnautović, Martin Harnik and Zlatko Junuzović are other players to keep an eye on. Their attacking players are good.
UEFA.com: How do you see Turkey's UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying chances? (Hiddink's side are fourth in Group A, nine points behind leaders Germany.)
Cenk: We should be realistic and fight for second. Our fate is in our own hands. If we play to our potential no team can take it from us. Obviously there are hard games to come but we can do it.
UEFA.com: Within three years of turning professional, you have already risen to the senior national team. Did you expect such a dramatic rise?
Cenk: I had a two-year spell at Frankfurt under Michael Skibbe, but couldn't get enough first-team chances because the competition was so tough. Signing for Gaziantepspor was a turning point for me because it opened the way to the national team. I didn't expect it to be quite this fast but everything is working in my favour. Coming to the camp at a very young age, working with a big coach and talented players – this is a huge step for me.
UEFA.com: Why Gaziantepspor?
Cenk: I had offers from various clubs in Germany, for both loans and permanent moves, but Gaziantepspor obviously valued me. They came to Frankfurt a lot to see me; Gaziantepspor president İbrahim Kızıl and coach Tolunay Kafkas phoned me almost every day. Deep down, I felt very close to them. Kafkas had already tried to sign me when he was in charge of Kayserispor but I was only 16 and it was too early to come to Turkey.