PARIS, June 25 (AFP) - Turkey captain Bulent Korkmaz is predicting precious little delight for 'football giants' France in Thursday's Confederations Cup semi-final at the Stade de France.
Turkey earned the right to take on the European champions in their own back yard with a superb 2-2 draw with Brazil which left them as Group B runners-up at Saint Etienne on Monday.
The hosts topped Group A thanks to a benevolent bit of refereeing resulting in a late penalty against Colombia, a 2-1 defeat of Japan and a 5-0 thrashing of New Zealand.
"France were one of the favourites, but I think Turkey are too - in the past our system of play wasn't very well controlled, but now we're a much more complete team. "It's an important match for us," said Bulent.
His coach Senol Gunes, who led Turkey to third place in last summer's World Cup, is eager to see how his young side cope on Thursday.
"France are former World Cup winners and European champions, they are giants of football. "This is an exciting test for our new players," said Gunes.
Yet he is deeply concerned about the physical toll the competition has taken on his team. "We've done a lot of travelling and only have two days to prepare for France, whereas they as hosts have not been on the road so much.
"Our aim was to meet them in the final, but here we are taking them on in the semis." Given the support afforded to Turkey by their fanatical fans the atmosphere at the Stade de France could get as hot as the soaring temperatures the teams have had to contend with since the competition began a week ago.
Paris has a sizeable Turkish community, and many of them will be turning up to ensure Gunes' side don't lack for support.
The coach is planning a number of changes from the team that knocked Brazil out on Monday although it is uncertain whether Real Sociedad striker Nihat Kahveci, on Spanish league duty up to now, will be among them.
Jacques Santini has rotated his France side like a circus juggler, and with telling effect. 'Les Bleus' without talismanic midfielder Zinedine Zidane have looked more and more solid as the competition's progressed, and they should have a distinct fitness advantage.
Manchester United goalkeeper Fabien Barthez will be in high spirits after the birth of his first child, while Thierry Henry is enjoying his newfound popularity with the fans who were chanting his name over and over again at Saint Etienne against Japan even when he was on the bench.
The Arsenal forward said of the 'Henrymania' sweeping France: "It gives you pleasure to hear your name ring out at a stadium, it's something you dream of when you're a kid." Santini, who for the second match running will have to do without his suspended Bayern Munich defender Willy Sagnol, said after the New Zealand drubbing that France was still in her "progressive stage".
"I think we'll be even better in the semi-final.
"Our aim was to still be around in the second week, and we've made it," said the former Lyon manager.