June 21 – They arrived as genuine dark horses to go deep into the tournament yet depart after three humbling defeats, one goal scored and without a single point.
Turkey may have had one of the youngest squads at Euro 2020 but in a football-mad nation, the hurt will linger for months to come.
Following Sunday’s 3-1 loss to Switzerland which sealed his team’s fate, Turkey coach Şenol Güneş insisted his players still have the potential for future success.
“I hope that (the tournament) still adds something to their football experience and I believe this group is going to stand for the next 10 years of Turkish football,” he said through an interpreter. “They know they can work harder to do great things in the future.”
Former Turkey international Nihat Kahveci put it somewhat differently.
“We were among the definite favourites to qualify for the second round, but now we are the worst team in the tournament,” Kahveci said after they finished bottom of their group
Gunes led Turkey to third place finish at the 2002 World Cup and returned two years ago for a second spell. On paper, he had an eye-catching squad, most of whom play in Europe’s top five leagues, but will now be under huge pressure to step down.
To put their failure into context, in European Championship finals history only 11 countries have failed to pick up a single point in the group stages and of those Turkey’s 2020 campaign is statistically the fifth worst, according to the BBC.
Gunes claimed responsibility but also laid the blame elsewhere.
“I do not think of resignation at the moment,” he said. “The media is also responsible, the management is also responsible, the coaching team is also responsible.
“These are still our kids, in failure or in success. I still believe in them but we are well aware that such a performance at this tournament is unacceptable.”
Turkey’s much-touted Juventus defender, Merih Demiral, summed up the mood in the camp.
“When the expectations are high, the disappointment is bigger,” he said. “We will be attending other tournaments in the future and show what we are made of.
“We are a young squad, we will have chances to make it up. I apologise to our nation. I trust my friends, we have learned a lot from this experience.”
Contact the writer of this story at firstname.lastname@example.org