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New man Buruk aware of Turkey's talent

New coach Okan Buruk was not in charge when Turkey stormed through the elite round with a perfect record, but he is conscious of the talent he has at his disposal for the finals.

Turkey celebrate scoring during their elite round defeat of Russia
Turkey celebrate scoring during their elite round defeat of Russia ©Mikhail Shapaev

Turkey are one of the in-form teams looking to make their mark at the UEFA European Under-19 Championship in Lithuania, and although their coach Okan Buruk was not the man who guided them to a perfect record in a tough elite round, he is more than aware of the talent now at his disposal.

"Though I watched every game, it was the former coach Feyyaz Uçar who was responsible for our elite round success," Okan told UEFA.com. "It wasn't easy to beat teams like Russia, Italy and Ukraine – who each represent distinct football schools – and it was a big thing to win all three games."

The impression left by this group of players during that impressive elite round in Russia in May, and also the recent participations in the FIFA U-20 World Cup and Mediterranean Games, has Turkey fans and experts alike hopeful for the future.

"I agree with them," enthused Okan, who made his name as a midfielder playing over 200 league matches for Galatasaray AŞ. "These players have gained a significant amount of experience in the very early stages of their career. Turkey have had three important tournaments within two months at U19 and U20 level – a little unusual for us. It has been a unique experience for both the players and the coaches. The experience will certainly help the older players get more game time at their respective clubs."

A seven-time Turkish champion who also lifted the UEFA Cup in 2000 and triumphed at the UEFA European U18 Championship in 1992, Okan is well placed to judge his squad's potential.

"Turkey scored nine goals in their elite round encounters – averaging three a game – and conceded just two. Those statistics alone indicate that our group are really talented. Additionally, ten of those players went on to feature in the World Cup. This proves that our pool of 1994-born players is very promising."

Drawn alongside France, Georgia and Serbia in Lithuania, Turkey's talented tyros will have to be at their best to reach the knockout phase – not that Okan is applying any pressure.

"Our primary target was making it to the U19 finals," he said. "It's great to be among the top eight nations in Europe. I am proud. Turkey do not regularly qualify for U19 finals, so it's important to experience this atmosphere. Only a few players get the chance to showcase themselves on a global or continental stage – I want them to enjoy this."