Turkey left it too late at Euro 2016 but Emre Mor offers hope for future
Turkey did not make an impression on Euro 2016 until the final game, when it was too late and Ireland's late goal sank their hopes of qualifying in third place. Young Emre Mor provided hope for the future, but there are plenty of lessons for Fatih Terim's side to learn.
At a glance
A cruel way to be eliminated as Ireland scored late to pip them to a third-best place but upon reflection, fans will accept Terim's side didn't do enough to deserve to qualify. The moral of the story is to not rely on what others teams do but on yourself.
Turkey's 2-0 win over Czech Republic was the best moment as the victory came off the back of two disappointing defeats and was greeted with equal measure of joy and relief.
Emre Mor, 18, put on a scintillating performance, playing a key role in the victory and putting his name on the world stage. Mor (who has just moved to Dortmund) became the third youngest player in European Championships to assist a goal -- and the youngest in Euro 2016.
Burak Yilmaz scored a brilliant goal while Ozan Tufan made up for the "hair incident" against Croatia with an outstanding strike for the second goal. The result was almost enough to book a place in the next round as one of the best four third-placed sides but it proved to be too little too late.
It may not have been enough to ensure qualification but the performance did give the fans hope for 24 hours and gave birth to one of the brightest prospects in Turkish football.
The opening 1-0 defeat to Croatia. Fans were in an optimistic mood going into the tournament after coming off the back of an impressive run of form, having lost just once in their last 16 games. It was not so much the defeat but the manner of defeat that infuriated Turkish fans.
The lack of fight and determination shown during the defeats to both Croatia and Spain (3-0) did not go down well. Terim's teams have traditionally been gritty, full of passion and never give up. That simply was not the case in the first two games; captain Arda Turan was jeered by his own fans midway through the defeat to Spain and responded by giving the supporters the thumbs up -- which only aggravated them further.
The "hair incident" alluded to above saw midfielder Tufan in the spotlight for adjusting his hair instead of busting a gut to close down Luka Modric, who scored from a volley just outside the penalty area for what turned out to be Croatia's winning goal. It typified the whole team's attitude from the off.
The final blow came during Ireland's clash with Italy. Turkey needed Italy to hold out for a draw in order to qualify but were left heartbroken when Robbie Brady headed home the winner three minutes from time.
Despite making just one start for the Turkish national team, Mor was the standout player. Just a fortnight ago the young attacking midfielder was an unknown FC Nordsjaelland player with just two senior caps under his belt. A few days into the Euro 2016 camp he was snapped up on a five-year deal by Dortmund.
Terim used Mor briefly against Croatia but he got his big break against the Czech Republic. Turkey needed an injection of pace and the youngster was thrown into the deep end for his first ever start in a major tournament.
He became the third youngest player to set up a goal in the history of the tournament after Wayne Rooney and Enzo Scifo with his assist for Yilmaz's opening goal. Mor put on a brilliant performance, giving the Czech Republic defence a nightmare, constantly threatening on the break and dazzling opposition defenders with his impressive dribbling ability and penetrating forward runs.
Despite his age, Mor is clearly a cut above the rest and left fans wondering what would have happened if he had started the opening two games.
Turkey were woefully unprepared for this summer's competition. Terim hadn't decided on his starting XI and was tactically out-thought in the opening game against Croatia as their weaknesses were exploited by a side who focused the majority of their attacks down the left-flank. Terim's men, meanwhile, did not appear to have a gameplan and looked lost.
Turkey have talented players but they lack direction. The team must prepare better tactically, defensively and physically for future tournaments. The national side's naivety cost them heavily against Croatia and Spain and they imploded in the second game -- conceding three within a 14 minute span.
Considering goal difference came into play in determining the four best third-placed teams, it proved to be the difference between qualifying for the knockouts, or going home.
Eren Sarigul covers Turkish football for ESPN and Turkish-football.com. Follow him on Twitter: @_ErenSarigul