Turkey went all the way to third place at the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea at only their second Fifa tournament, but the Crescent Stars have not qualified for any since.
The transcontinental country on the Anatolian Peninsula in Western Asia first appeared at the finals of a World Cup in 1954. But Turkey had to wait another 48 years to return to the Fifa event, and will hope their wait is not as long to qualify again after missing out in 2022.
Turkey failed to book a place at the Qatar edition in November and December after losing to Portugal in the play-offs. The Crescent Stars failed to gain automatic qualification to the 22nd edition by just two points to the Netherlands, then lost in the UEFA Path C semi-final.
A place at the first World Cup to be held in the Middle East would have marked the fourth time that Turkey have qualified for the tournament. They also secured a place at the 1950 edition in Brazil, but withdrew their entry before taking to the global stage four years later.
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Turkey would not make it out of the group stage in Sweden as Hungary and Germany took the top spots in Group 2. But after a 48-year wait, the Crescent Stars finally made it back in Japan and South Korea and showed the world what they could give en route to third place.
Senol Gunes stood at the helm for Turkey in 2002, with Hakan Sukur his captain and Emre Belozoglu proving to be one of his best players at the World Cup in Japan and South Korea. So, with that in mind, HITC Sport looks at the Crescent Stars’ route to the bronze medal…
Turkey needed a final day decider to determine Group C rankings at World Cup
Fifa drew Turkey in Group C upon their return to the World Cup at the 2002 edition. It was not a generous draw for the Crescent Stars as it pit Gunes’ squad against the No.2 ranked country at the time, Brazil, as well as the No.29 ranked Costa Rica and No.50 ranked China.
Turkey travelled to Japan and South Korea as the No.22 ranked nation in the world and did not have the easiest of starts. Brazil marked their tournament opener on June 3 and swept a 2-1 win at the Munsu Cup Stadium in Ulsan through an 87th-minute penalty by Rivaldo.
Hasan Sas had put Turkey ahead entering half-time with a stoppage-time goal, but Ronaldo Nazario drew the Selecao level within five minutes of the restart. Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side then found a way in front, before Hakan Unsal saw red for his second yellow card offence.
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Belozoglu would switch from the right-wing to the left to replace Unsal against Costa Rica in fixture two. The change paid dividends for Gunes on 56 minutes as Belozoglu broke the deadlock. But Los Ticos substitute Winston Parks broke their spirits on 86 minutes to draw.
With one point over two games, while Costa Rica had four after beating China, the Crescent Stars met the Dragon’s Team at the Seoul World Cup Stadium knowing they had to win. And Brazil did Gunes’ side a favour by beating Los Ticos 5-2 at the Suwon World Cup Stadium.
Yet Sas was not to know what was to come in Suwon when he broke the deadlock in Seoul. Nor was Bulent Korkmaz as the defender doubled Turkey’s lead inside nine minutes, before Umit Davala added five minutes from time, after Brazil’s victory become clear on the hour.
Goals from Ronaldo on 10 and 13 minutes put the Selecao on course to top Group C from Turkey. Edmilson then added, before Rivaldo and Junior restored a comfortable advantage after Paulo Wanchope and Ronald Gomez gave Costa Rica hope of taking a potential point.
Yet Wanchope and Gomez’s efforts ensured Turkey needed Korkmaz and Davala’s strikes to go through as runners-up on goal difference. Both the Crescent Stars and Costa Rica took four points, a win and scored five goals in the group stage but Turkey had conceded fewer.
Hosts nation Japan awaited Turkey in 2002 World Cup knockout stages
A date with one of the host nations in Japan awaited Turkey in the knockout stages of the 2002 World Cup. The Crescent Stars visited the Miyagi Stadium in Rifu to meet the Samurai Blue on June 18, knowing that a win would lead to facing Senegal during the quarter-finals.
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Turkey would only need the one goal to determine their progression this time as Davala hit home on just 12 minutes. Japan strived for the equaliser, but their efforts would ultimately fall short, while fellow host nation South Korea continued their World Cup by beating Italy.
Turkey swept aside Senegal in sudden death extra-time for semi-final slot
Turkey would continue their World Cup by sweeping aside Senegal in sudden death extra-time to secure a semi-final slot. The Lions of Teranga had already gained from only needing the one goal in extra-time to advance during the Round of 16 as they toppled Sweden 2-1.
After both sides failed to score through regular time, it took Ilhan Mansiz just four minutes of extra-time to find the breakthrough. The 21-cap striker had come on for Sukur in regular time, and would reward Gunes’ decision with a right-footed finish from Davala’s delivery.
Turkey missed a chance to revenge on Brazil before securing a third-place finish
Turkey’s reward for Mansiz’s strike was a semi-final and a chance for revenge over Group C rivals Brazil. But the Selecao would see that the Crescent Stars’ hopes of making the final in just their second World Cup did not come to fruition as Ronaldo decided the final eight tie.
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The Brazil icon hit the back of the net four minutes after half-time at the Saitama Stadium on June 26. It was enough for Scolari’s squad to go through and meet Germany in the final after Die Mannschaft had eliminated the joint-host nation, South Korea, the day before.
Turkey’s World Cup was not over, though, as they went on to face 2002 hosts South Korea at the Daegu World Cup Stadium. The June 29 affair would ensure the Crescent Stars went home with a win, as Sukur and a brace by Ilhan proved enough to clinch the bronze medal.
Lee Eul-Yong had drawn the Taegeuk Warriors level on nine minutes after Sukur broke the deadlock inside 60 seconds. But Song Chong-Gug would only reply to Ilhan’s double in the third minute of second-half stoppage-time to see the third-place play-off tie end as 3-2.
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