Turkey looking to Nihat to deliver


Fri, May 30, 2008 - Page 22

Nihat Kahveci’s name means coffee salesman and Turkish soccer fans will be hoping that the Villarreal star gives them a much needed boost in the Euro 2008 finals next month.

He is along with Emre perhaps the most recognizable of the names in the Turkish squad as it rebuilds following the retirements of the majority of the side that reached the 2002 World Cup finals.

Nihat has already proved his worth in the Euro 2008 qualifiers scoring vital goals against Norway and Bosnia to ensure Turkey progressed to the finals.

“Without him [Nihat], the team loses its talent and its power in attack,” wrote one Turkish commentator. “He is dynamic in pushing forward and can turn defense into attack in the twinkling of an eye.”

While he began his career with Besiktas it has been his success in Spain that has really marked him out as a special talent, first with Real Sociedad and then latterly with Villarreal, who have upset the natural order in the Spanish league by coming second in the title race this year behind Real Madrid.

Whilst his contribution this term has been limited by a knee injury, he showed he had returned to full fitness by scoring a brace against league rivals Getafe recently.

However, Nihat has a lot of pressure on him to inspire the emerging generation of Turkish players to try and reach the heights of their recent predecessors.

For a traditionally fiery team, coached by the emotional Terim, it is a big ask for someone to keep their head and not allow a repeat of the disgraceful scenes witnessed at the end of their 2006 World Cup finals play-off defeat by Switzerland.

In a country that places soccer above any other sport it is going to take a lot for Nihat to suppress his team-mates emotions, but with his experience gained in Spain and earning such headlines as “the player who has brought honor to Turkey abroad,” Terim should not fear for what goes on up front.