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   June 13, 2002 | 1635 IST


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Turkey players delighted

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Steve Bryant

Turkey players celebrated a new chapter in their footballing history on Thursday, beating China 3-0 to secure a second round place for the first time at the World Cup.

The place in the best 16 in the world confirms the growing stature of a country that has been notching up footballing firsts since the mid 1990s.

Once an international pushover, Turkey made the last eight of the European Championships in 2000, the same season that club Galatasaray won the UEFA Cup, the first major trophy to be taken to Istanbul.

Turkey players rejoice after beating China 3-0"We have European experience but we are short of World Cup experience," coach Senol Gunes said after the hammering of China.

"We are learning, though."

Turkey struggled to display their European pedigree in their first two matches in Korea.

Their 2-1 loss to Brazil was a result that would once have overjoyed Turkey fans, who now felt cheated of a draw by a last-minute penalty. That controversy disrupted the squad and they conceded a late goal to draw 1-1 with Costa Rica.

The last time Turkey appeared in a World Cup was back in 1954, when they crashed out at the group phase, losing 7-2 and 4-1 to West Germany and beating Korea 7-0.

For the new generation of players the place in the last 16 was a sweet vindication after the wobbles in the first two games.

"We are overjoyed," said left-back Hakan Unsal, who returned from suspension to play a crisp game running Turkey's left flank.

"We played very well for the first time. I think we've succeeded in doing something we deserved before," he said.

He was one of few Turkish players to speak to the press. Most of the squad filed past reporters without comment after the game in apparent revenge on Turkish reporters who have slammed the team and coach Gunes.


For Gunes particularly, reaching the second round was a vindication of promises he made more than a year ago, and one in the eye for his many critics at home.

"We are very happy we kept our promise to the Turkish nation," he said after their final group C match.

"Today we got a deserved victory," he said.

Gunes used to speak of a quarter-final place as Turkey's aim but that talk faded as the tournament neared. He now says he has kept his word and anything else is a bonus.

With the pressure off, Turkish fans may be hoping for the flowing football the team has only intermittently produced.

"Right now we have qualified from the group stage. In the knockout stage we want to progress," Gunes said.

"But surely we will play better football than we have during the group stage."

Defender Bulent Korkmaz, a veteran of both Turkish and Galatasaray success, said he was looking forward to finding out how far Turkey can go in the next round.

"We'll see. We will try to go as far as we can."

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