- Associated Press - Saturday, December 12, 2015

Turkey has a point to prove in Euro 2016.

The country reached the semifinals of the World Cup in 2002, finishing third, and again made it to the last four in Euro 2008, thanks to a string of last-gasp wins that became the signature style of the hard-fighting Turks. But it took them another eight years to get back to a major tournament, and only after a new round of drama.

Selcuk Inan scored a free kick in the 89th minute for Turkey, beating Iceland 1-0 in their final match to advance as best third-placed team and push the Dutch into shock elimination.

Inan’s goal and the team’s emotional celebrations that followed became an instantly famous moment in the country’s sporting history, sealing a turnaround after a terrible start that saw Turkey claim just one point from the opening three matches.

Veteran coach Fatih Terim redrew the Turkish defense, brought in younger players and watched his team climb back up the world rankings.



He was vindicated in the final stages of the campaign, hammering the Dutch 3-0 at home and traveling to the Czech Republic for a 2-0 win. In France, Terim may count on an expanding crop of younger players who hit their stride in European clubs this season, as well as a legion of passionate fans backed by large Turkish communities in western Europe.

Here is a look at three of Turkey’s key players and its coach:

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ARDA TURAN - Turkey’s captain and energizer-in-chief Arda Turan started his international career as a senior at age 19 and has been the key figure in the team’s transition back to success, already tallying 87 appearances. Most football fans outside Turkey know the 28-year-old from his time at Atletico Madrid, when he helped his team to an all-Spanish 2014 final in the Champions League, missing the match that was won in extra time by Real Madrid. Turan has had more time for the national side since his high-profile summer move to Barcelona, having to sit out of Spanish matches for the rest of 2015 due to transfer rules.

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BURAK YILMAZ - Selcuk Inan’s goal against Iceland may have been Turkey’s most decisive, but Galatasaray teammate and strike partner Burak Yilmaz has scored more for Turkey. The 30-year-old found the net four times in six qualification matches to bring his total to 19. At 1.88 meters (six-foot-two), Yilmaz’s height is an asset for coach Terim who can also rely on midfielder Turan as a goal-scoring threat.

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HAKAN BALTA - His last name is the Turkish word for ax, and little gets past Hakan Balta. The Berlin-born 32-year-old helped Terim’s plans to tighten up Turkey’s defense, pairing as a center-back with Serdar Aziz. Safety at the back was decisive for Turkey, which started qualification with a 3-0 loss in Iceland but conceded only once in its last five matches.

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COACH: FATIH TERIM - Turks calls him “The Emperor.” Plain spoken and intense, Fatih Terim is currently on his third spell as national coach, credited as a team-builder who can take on opponents with a higher individual market value. The former Galatasaray player and coach missed qualification for the World Cup in Brazil last year. He publicly demanded more from his players after disappointing early results in the Euro qualifiers. Following Turkey’s opening loss to Iceland, he declared: “The Turkish national team is a place where you have to give more than 100 percent.”

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