Despite having already had a glimpse of top-flight football and occasionally trained with their senior club teams, Aykut Ozer and Sinan Tekerci are still apprehensive - and not without good reason. In just a few weeks time, the Turkish youngsters and their team-mates will have the eyes of the world upon them when the FIFA U-20 World Cup Turkey 2013 gets underway.
Yet the duo, who were both raised in Germany, are also looking forward to the challenge. Eintracht Frankfurt goalkeeper Ozer and Nuremberg midfielder Tekerci can hardly wait to showcase their talents in the land of their forefathers. The gifted pair are determined to take advantage of the unique opportunity to shine as the fervent home support spur them on.
“Even though I live in Germany, I still view Turkey as my home,” Ozer told FIFA.com. “I’m really looking forward to playing for my country. It’s unbelievable.”
The 20-year-old has twice been a substitute for Frankfurt recently, filling the void left by Oka Nikolov, who has replaced injured first-choice keeper Kevin Trapp between the sticks. Ozer is hoping to continue his upward trajectory this summer on the international stage.
“It’s something very special when you get to play for your national team at a World Cup,” he said. “It’s where the best play against the best. It’s the highest level there is and I’m raring to show our fans what we can do. For me, playing for your country is all about pride. I’m unbelievably happy that I’ll be able to experience that on Turkish soil.”
I get goosebumps when I think about playing in such incredible stadiums. Turkish fans are unbelievably passionate. I’m sure it’ll be a terrific experience for every player and every fan.
For Tekerci, there are two compelling reasons to reach the final on 13 July. On the one hand, the 19-year-old is determined to taste glory with his team-mates, but he is also driven by the possibility of playing in front of his family. “I have relatives who live in Istanbul and it would be fantastic to meet up with them on such an occasion,” he said, grinning.
Tekerci has yet to make Nuremberg’s squad on a Bundesliga matchday, but is a key figure in the club’s reserve side in Germany’s fourth tier and has impressed in friendlies against the professionals. Not only is the midfielder excited about the prospect of playing a FIFA U-20 World Cup on home turf with Turkey, he is anticipating a breathtaking atmosphere.
“I get goosebumps when I think about playing in such incredible stadiums," he said. "Turkish fans are unbelievably passionate. I’m sure it’ll be a terrific experience for every player and every fan who witness the tournament up close.”
In Group C, Turkey will face El Salvador in Trabzon on 22 June, before meeting Colombia three days later in Rize. They return to Trabzon on 28 June to meet Australia. The draw stirred up mixed feelings among the team.
“Our three opponents in the group stage are strong and deserved to qualify, but I still think we have a good chance,” said Ozer. Tekerci is equally confident: “The group is doable, but we’ll need to be on top of our game against Colombia, as they got past Brazil and Argentina.”
The young Turks have good reason for such self-belief. In two recent warm-up games on home soil against two-time FIFA U-20 World Cup winners Portugal, who also finished as runners-up in the last tournament at Colombia 2011, they recorded a 2-1 victory and a 1-1 draw.
"We have a lot of very good individual players, but we’re also a team that pulls together," Ozer concluded. "We fight hard and play well. I hope we’ll be able to show that at the World Cup. Tekerci added: “With the support of our fans, anything is possible.”