> Sports > 2002 FIFA WORLD CUP 

   June 20, 2002 | 1320 IST


Umit Davala
Sun sets on Japan

  Best of the Web

A compilation of the best links on the World Cup.

  Soccer Store

Snap up Jerseys, Books, CD ROMs and Arsenal soccer balls. Click here

Act Now! Treat those Scratches

Turkey trust in Hakan Sukur

E-Mail this report to a friend
Print this page Best Printed on  HP Laserjets

Hakan Sukur has not scored for Turkey in four World Cup matches. For long stretches the striker has been marked out of the game, at other times he seems lethargic.

But while calls are rising in some quarters for coach Senol Gunes to finally part company with arguably Turkey's most successful player and give new potential such as Ilhan Mansiz a chance, it is unlikely Gunes would ever give up on a player who always has rewarded loyalty with goals.

It is uncertain that the Turkish captain even feels much pressure to score.

The tall, lean centre-forward has hit 35 goals for Turkey in 77 international appearances. Both numbers are Turkish records but while the matches are ticking over, there have been no goals since an April friendly against Chile.

Over a long career in Turkey and Italy, however, Hakan says he's learned a game that relies on patience. He says he's happy to use his pace and strength to create space for others.

"Time has shown that football is sharing and helping each other. Once these elements are well established on the field, great success comes. That's why in my eight years at Galatasaray we won six titles...and successes including the UEFA Cup," he says on his website.

"I am a strong runner. I am not just a player who waits around, I'm not just a goalscorer," he said more recently.

Gunes seems to concur. He plays Hakan alone up front with an array of attacking midfielders behind him, most of them diminutive but fast-moving players with a nose for the chances that emerge come from space Hakan wins.

Five of Turkey's six World Cup goals have come from them.


Hasan Sas has excelled in the role, scoring twice so far. Umit Davala on the right has also found the knack of arriving in the box without marking and has netted a right-footed drive and the powerful header that beat Japan to earn Turkey a quarter-final place.

In the middle, Emre Belozoglu has scored once and looks likely to return from suspension to face Senegal on Saturday.

While Umit Davala has height, of the other three -- Hasan, Emre Belozoglu and Yildiray Basturk -- none is taller than 1.76 metres (five foot ten inches).

They may struggle against the physical presence of a Senegalese line-up that includes the huge Pape Bouba Diop.

But that only increases the importance of Hakan's role of drawing defenders with him.

Okan Buruk, who has been out with injury since the evening before Turkey's opening match against Brazil, may return for the Senegal game. The Inter Milan player is also short but has the muscular build needed to stay on the ball and, though short of matches, has a natural eye for goal.

Critics say that Hakan is far from his best form after a long period without regular matches at Inter Milan. That lay-off only ended recently with a move to Parma.

"Hakan Sukur has not used any of the chances given to him. Like in his off years at Galatasaray he was cut off from the game with his head down and did not even attack balls half a metre in front of him," the Sabah newspaper said after the Japan game.

Hakan did have off years at Galatasaray, particularly after his first unsuccessful 1995 foray into Italian football, when he returned to Turkey homesick from Torino and with his marriage in difficulty.

Galatasaray coach Fatih Terim stuck by him and the goals eventually came again.

Hakan is a much more mature player now and back in Italy with a second wife and a young daughter. His first wife died in Turkey's 1999 earthquake which devastated his hometown of Sakarya.

Back to top
(c) Copyright 2002 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.


(c) 2002 India Limited. All Rights Reserved.