Turkey kicked off their FIFA U-20 World Cup campaign with an impressive 3-0 victory over fellow Group C side El Salvador on Saturday. The star of the show was undoubtedly 18-year-old Cenk Sahin, who gave the Selecta defence a torrid time with his marauding runs down the right flank.
Sahin was first introduced to football in his hometown of Zolguldak, playing for Zonguldak Belediyespor's youth academy before joining Zonguldakspor's youth team. After a string of fine performances he caught the attention of Istanbul Buyuksehir Belediyespor (IBB), with whom he signed a professional contract that runs until 2017. Despite IBB's disappointing league campaign this year and consequent relegation, Sahin put that behind him to turn in an impressive display against the Central Americans that will doubtless have caught the eye of attentive club scouts.
To be fair to Sahin, his inability to make much of an impact in the league this season was due to the limited opportunities at his club; the 19-year-old winger only making five appearances during the entire 2012/13 campaign. However, Turkey 2013 is the perfect setting for him as his peers to showcase their talents to the watching world. Sahin certainly made the most of the opportunity against El Salvador, with his goals stemming from perfectly timed runs beyond the opposition defence. The young winger even had a chance to complete his hat-trick later in the game, but it was not to be after he over hit a pass to a team-mate in a better scoring position.
I’ve played with Salih for three years. We have a close connection both on and off the field and I hope this will continue in the future.
Sahin's understanding with Salih Ucan, another of the players to watch here, was one of the main talking points of the game – not least for their passing interchanges. Indeed, the tyros combined for two of Turkey's three goals in their opener. First Sahin dribbled to the by-line and laid off a ball for Ucan to break the deadlock, then Ucan returned the favour with a defence-splitting through ball which Sahin comfortably dispatched for their second.
FIFA.com caught up with the two-goal hero after the game and asked him about his flying start to the FIFA U-20 World Cup. Assessing his own performance, the player said, "I’ve made a good start to the competition and am very happy with my goals and assist. My aim here is to contribute to the team."
Turkey coach Feyyaz Ucar also spoke about Sahin after the game, saying: "I’ve worked with Cenk in both the U-19 and U-20 national teams. He’s featured regularly since I was appointed coach of Turkey's youth teams a year and a half ago. My only concern with Cenk is the lack of opportunities his club gave him last season."
Following his striking performance in the host’s opening fixture, much is expected of the young midfielder in the next round of games. Though impressive, the match highlights and stats do not reveal the full story. To truly appreciate this promising youngster, you simply have to watch him play.