Through numerous human rights’ violations, signs of corruption and a historic final game, Qatar’s experience of hosting a World Cup is over. Expectations may have been lowered before the tournament started, but the 2022 FIFA World Cup will be remembered as one of the best ever thanks to the feast of drama that it served up.
It’s hard to shake off the shock and awe that was created by a wide spectrum of events. It’s even harder to gather our focus around some of the teams that didn’t manage to make it to the World Cup in Qatar, too. Turkey is one of them.
Turkey missed their fifth World Cup in a row since they enormously overachieved in Korea in 2002, where they finished third after losing the semi-final to eventual champions Brazil.
Fast forward to more recent times and Turkey’s supposed “dark horse” campaign in EURO 21 ended in one of the worst tournament showings in history for the nation. They finished bottom of the group, losing all three of their games, meanwhile they conceded eight goals and scored only one.
After a horrific performance in the Euros and their notable absence from the World Cup in Qatar, it’s fair to say that Turkish football is going through somewhat of a rough patch. The current emerging crop are not a group to be easily written off, though. With the right additions to this talented group, Turkey’s return to the 2026 World Cup feels likely rather than doubtful. Let’s take a look at three of Turkey’s young prospects that could help get the nation back to competing with the best around in the biggest competitions.
Arguably the brightest prospect of them all, Arda Guler is seriously talented. Only 17-years-old and with a calm head on his shoulders, he has a magical left foot. These attributes have won him a clear involvement in Jorge Jesus’ plans at Fenerbahce, as the Portuguese boss led his team to the Top 16 stage of the Europa League.
Jesus’ first serious sign of trust towards the young prodigy was shown by naming him in the starting line-up against Dynamo Kiev, which resulted in a brilliant performance that included a goal and an assist.
Hopefully the World Cup break was seen as an opportunity for the youngster to sharpen his skills even more, rather than an obstacle in the way of him kick-starting his career. Make no mistake about it, Arda Guler will be shining for Turkey in the near future.
At the end of a transfer saga which certainly wasn’t short on drama, Emirhan IIkhan left his parent club, Besiktas, for a cut price of 4 million euros and made the move to Serie A side Torino. Since he joined in the summer of 22’ his involvement remained limited, as he featured in four games, only starting in one. In that start, he became the youngest player to ever feature for Torino in Serie A history, when he made his debut for the club against Lecce at only 18 years and 96 days old.
The lack of playing time is certainly hindering him at the moment, though. A playmaker who possesses the passing range required to create an impact all over the pitch, his ability on the ball is mightily impressive. He’s also a tenacious presser and a ferocious tackler.
Whether his involvement with his current Torino side increases or not remains to be seen, but the talent is there. If he is nurtured correctly, there are no doubts that Emirhan IIkhan will be a valuable asset for both club and country in the future.
Considering the current form that Turkey’s senior goalkeepers are in, there is a desperate need for a reliable man in-between the sticks. Step forward, Dogan Alemdar.
Another Turkish youngster whose involvement remained limited after his transfer abroad, he moved to Stade Rennais in the summer of 2021 from Turkish side Kayserispor. He has five appearances this season, two being in the Europa League. Below is a highlight reel from last season that illustrates exactly why he earned himself a move to Ligue 1.
The 20-year-old is able to cover the modern game’s expectations from a goalkeeper as he can sweep up at the back and start attacks, while also providing the all-round reliability any goalkeeper needs, with his shot stopping being another standout attribute. He’ll be 24-years-old when the 2026 World Cup arrives, which is considerably young for a goalkeeper. But considering that he played a full season for his senior side at just 18-years-old, he should gain a significant amount of experience by the time the next World Cup comes around.
Despite Turkey’s evident decline, this emerging group of players is far from done. Turkey have players featuring in all of the major five competitions in Europe, while the aforementioned injection of new talent is causing some optimism for the future.