Turkey make peace with fans - but future still in balance

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After back-to-back defeats against Croatia and Spain, Fatih Terim's team redeemed themselves with a win over Czech Republic but must wait to see if they have made the last 16


This was the Turkey that their fans expected to see at Euro 2016. Unbeaten in 13 games prior to the friendly loss to England in late May, Fatih Terim's team had high hopes coming into this tournament. Now, at least, they have given themselves a chance of staying in it.

Turkey lost their first game to Croatia in a 1-0 defeat that could have been much worse, before capitulation against Spain in a 3-0 loss in which their players clearly gave up and captain Arda Turan earned boos and whistles from his own supporters.

Ahead of their final group game in Lens, Terim cut an emotional figure as he spoke to the media about how his players had not prepared properly, how he was hurt by attacks from the media and how he hoped their would be a reaction from his side against the Czechs.

He got one. Both of these teams needed to win the match to have a chance of making it to the last 16. And Czech Republic, with a point claimed against Croatia, were better placed going into this fixture. But as the game got under way, Turkey were the superior side. Looking more hungry and more passionate than they had in their previous two games, there was some super link-up play involving Turan, Emre Mor and Volkan Sen behind striker Burak Yilmaz, who fired them in front after only 10 minutes.

The Czechs attacked too, but it always appeared a second goal for Turkey was more likely. And after a poor offside call denied Arda a clear run at goal, midfielder Ozan Tufan smashed a fierce drive past Petr Cech at his near post. The fans went wild and launched flares onto the pitch amid intense scenes in the stands. Finally, those supporters had something to celebrate - and they had their team back.

It was no more than they deserved and means Turkey finish Group D (described by Terim as "the group of death" on Monday) in third place with three points and a negative goal difference (-2). So they will have to wait to see whether that is enough to send them through to the last 16.

The competition's format this time around sees all group winners and second-placed sides advance to the second round, where they will be joined by four of the teams that finish third in those sectors.

As things stand, Turkey's record is inferior to Slovakia (who have qualified with four points in Group B) and Northern Ireland (also through with three points and a better goal difference in Group C), but better than Albania (same goal difference in Group A but having scored one less), so they will need to hope that things go their way in one of the remaining two sectors on Wednesday.

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And they may well do. In Group E, both Sweden and Republic of Ireland have only one point apiece and face Belgium and Italy, respectively. In Group F, however, they would need both Portugal and Austria to lose, to Hungary and Iceland.

On Tuesday night, their fans will be celebrating in Lens regardless of that. Because this was an evening to remember as Turan and Turkey made peace with the fans  - and they could well live to fight another day in France after all.

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