Euro 2024 team guides: Turkey

Head coach Vincenzo Montella has transformed the team, trusting in youngsters such as Arda Guler
By Emre Sarigul

This article is part of the Guardian’s Euro 2024 Experts’ Network, a cooperation between some of the best media organisations from the 24 countries who qualified. is running previews from two countries each day in the run-up to the tournament kicking off on 14 June.

Turkey’s qualification for Euro 2024 looked but a distant dream not so long ago. The team were struggling under Stefan Kuntz and looked low on confidence and ideas. In September 2023 the Turkish FA fired the German and replaced him with Vincenzo Montella, who had enjoyed success with the Turkish side Adana Demirspor. The Italian immediately injected a dose of confidence and Turkey ended up winning their qualifying group, beating Croatia away 1-0 on the way.

Montella’s 4-2-3-1 system prioritises possession with quick attacking transitions and an emphasis on using the wide areas. He has not been afraid to trust the next generation of Turkish players, including the Real Madrid attacking midfielder Arda Guler (19), Juventus’s Kenan Yildiz (19) and Nürnberg’s Can Uzun (18), showcasing his commitment to long-term development.

In fact, under Montella’s stewardship Turkey have transformed into a team brimming with excitement. It is seen as the most promising in recent memory, which is quite a remarkable turnaround. The Italian deserves credit for convincing Yildiz and Uzun to represent Turkey as they were eligible for Germany, too.

It is not all rosy, however, and the March friendlies against Hungary and Austria exposed the team’s defensive frailties. After a narrow defeat against the Hungarians they collapsed against Austria, losing 6-1. The heavy defeat sparked panic among the country’s media with one reporter asking Montella if he would resign.

The reaction was over the top but the defeats could turn out to be a blessing in disguise. The results will allow Montella to refine his tactics and address the defensive lapses before the Euro 2024 finals. Moreover the pressure on the team has eased, removing the “dark horse” label that has hampered them in the past.

The coach

Vincenzo Montella taking charge of the Super Lig minnows Adana Demirspor in September 2021 was completely unexpected. Having managed Milan, Sevilla and Fiorentina, he might have been expected to take over at one of the Istanbul powerhouses, or Trabzonspor, but he chose a team that looked likely to be relegated. In the end he turned Demirspor into one of the most exciting sides in the league, punching above their weight and finishing fourth in his second season at the club – a remarkable achievement. Montella immersed himself in Turkish football, won the respect of the fans and now finds himself in charge of the national team.

The icon
This is a really tough pick as you could make a case for Yildiz, Uzun or Hakan Calhanoglu. But at just 19, Arda Guler has become the face of a resurgent Turkey team. His dazzling talent earned him a high-profile move to Real Madrid at the age of 18 last summer. Injuries kept him out of the side for the first half of the season but he eventually scored six goals in 10 appearances – converting every shot he took. Guler arrives in Germany in red hot form and wants to prove himself on the international stage. His talent is undeniable and given the chance he could be a game changer.

One to watch
Kenan Yildiz has that X-factor. The 18-year-old burst on to the scene at Juventus this season and possesses a dangerous combination of technical ability, physical strength and confidence to reach the highest level. Montella has already integrated him into the team and Yildiz repaid the manager with a goal against Germany on his full debut. “I want to thank the entire Turkish federation and for Montella for believing in me,” he said after the game. “Before the game he just told me to relax and play my football. It worked.”

The spine
Ugurcan Cakir is the clear first choice in goal. The defence is less certain and has been the main concern for Montella but Abdulkerim Bardakci should start after a stellar season at Galatasaray. Calhanoglu is the heartbeat of this team in central midfield with Arda Guler the creative brain in attack. Montella has been praised for picking his team based on form and there is a heavy domestic Super Lig presence in contrast to teams of the past.

Celebrity fan

Nusret, aka Salt Bae, managed to get on to the pitch after the World Cup final in 2022 and get his hands on the trophy. How or why he was even on the pitch celebrating with the Argentina teams remains a bit of a mystery but you can be sure that if Turkey achieve anywhere near the same level of success, the living meme will try to gatecrash the party again.

Culinary delight

One of the best Turkish snacks is an assortment of salted nuts, including pistachios, peanuts, dried chickpeas and hazelnuts, among others. But king among snacks are roasted and salted sunflower seeds in their shells. While healthy, they can also be a nuisance as less considerate fans tend to throw the shells on the floor. They are moreish and delicious, but just be sure to have a big enough bowl as the shells pile up.

Turkey team guide written by Emre Sarigul for