Turkey | World Cup Qualifying: Can Turkey end their 20-year wait for a World Cup appearance?
When the final whistle blew in the third-place play-off at the 2002 World Cup, hosted in South Korea and Japan, Turkey's players went up to collect their bronze medals, capping their best-ever finish to a tournament.Two things haven't changed since that day in Daegu - the fact that Senol Gunes is still the Turkish head […]

When the final whistle blew in the third-place play-off at the 2002 World Cup, hosted in South Korea and Japan, Turkey's players went up to collect their bronze medals, capping their best-ever finish to a tournament.

Two things haven't changed since that day in Daegu - the fact that Senol Gunes is still the Turkish head coach and that Turkey haven't played a single minute of World Cup action since.

That impressive showing in East Asia was just Turkey's second appearance at a World Cup, in fact, after going out of the group stage of the 1954 edition in Switzerland.

For a country that has qualified for five of the last seven European Championships, one World Cup appearance in 68 years is not exactly what you'd expect.

With qualifying now well underway in Europe ahead of Qatar 2022, Turkey's chances of ending their 20-year hiatus from the world stage are looking rather good.

Gunes' side won each of their first two qualifiers, with statement performances against the Netherlands and Norway. A 3-3 draw with Latvia on Tuesday night has offered somewhat of a reality check, however.

Who are Turkey's key men?

Although Burak Yilmaz is perhaps in better form than at any point of his career at the age of 35, there are plenty of goals and lots of quality spread throughout the team.

In front of Trabzonspor's 24-year-old goalkeeper Ugurcan Cakir, Premier League duo Caglar Soyuncu and Ozan Kabak form the centre of the defence.

There is Premier League presence in midfield, too, with West Brom's Okay Yakuslu, who has experience of LaLiga Santander with Celta Vigo.

Ozan Tufan, who netted twice in the 3-0 win over Norway, is really coming of age for club and country. He represented Turkey with distinction at Euro 2016 at the age of 22.

The craft and guile in the team is provided in large parts by AC Milan's Hakan Calhanoglu, who is well known to European football fans as it is. The same applies to Yilmaz, who already has four goals to his name in qualifying for Qatar 2022, including a hat-trick against the Netherlands.

If the Lille striker can power his country to the World Cup, whilst wearing the captain's armband too, there will undoubtedly be a place in Turkey's hall of fame for him.

To do so, Gunes' men are having to navigate a qualifying group that consists of the Netherlands and a strong Norway team. Although the draw with Latvia will be disappointing, Turkey may well have taken seven points from their first three matches beforehand anyway.

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