Sunday 8 June 2008

Turkey vow to come back stronger

Turkey are determined to bounce back from Saturday`s defeat

Turkey kept up a tradition last night - admittedly not one of their most cherished. At every major finals in which they previously have been involved – the 1954 and 2002 FIFA World Cups, EURO '96™ and UEFA EURO 2000™ – they have lost their opening game, and so it was again in Geneva as they went down 2-0 to Portugal.

Emre contrite
Hope, however, has not been abandoned. In 2000, after losing to Italy in the opener, they drew with Sweden and beat co-hosts Belgium to reach the last eight and two years later, having lost to Brazil in their first game, they went on to meet them in the semi-finals. A veteran of that tournament, captain Emre Bel๖zoğlu, is disappointed to have again got off on the wrong foot. "I feel sorry about the loss," Emre said. "It was an important match because it was the opening game for both teams. I think we played better in the first half, but we conceded an unlucky goal. We have two games left and we want to compensate for this defeat in those games. I hope we will get a result against Switzerland."

Must-win game
In 2002, Turkey beat both home nations, Japan and Korea Republic, on the way to bronze medal and a similar feat in Basel on Wednesday is the first priority for Kazım Kazım, who was a 15-year-old trainee at Bury FC when Emre and co were starring in the Far East. "We must win the Switzerland game," said the surprise starter on the wing, having been used as a makeshift right-back for the second string in training games in recent days. "I was disappointed with the result because we competed very well especially in the first half."

Nihat frustration
It was particlarly frustrating for Emre's fellow Korea/Japan veteran, Nihat Kahveci, as lone striker, and he bemoaned that the goals were at the other end. "In these kind of tournaments, not conceding a goal is very, very important and also making a positive start," he said. "We could have played better. In the second half, we didn't do our best. I think now we should aim for six points."