An 89th minute goal and favourable results elsewhere propelled Turkey into the European Championships in France next summer.
The team beat Iceland 1-0 at home, while nearest rivals Holland lost 2-3 at home to group leaders the Czech Republic, leaving Turkey in third place in Group A.
Turkey had got off to a poor start with the European Championship qualifiers, losing its first two games and drawing the third. However, the team found a winning streak just when it mattered, winning three out of its final three games.
On Saturday, the team took to the pitch against the Czech Republic in sombre mood following the tragic events back at home, where 97 people had been killed and hundreds more injured in the horrific bombing of a peace rally in Ankara. Two second half goals, a penalty from Selçuk İnan and a sweet strike by Hakan Çalhanoğlu in the 79th minute saw them win 0-2.
With Kazakhstan losing at home to the Dutch, and both the Czech and Icelandic teams already through to France, all eyes turned to the final group games. The group’s third-placed team would secure either a play-off spot or, depending on the results from other groups, qualify automatically for the Finals. Turkey needed to win and hope results elsewhere went their way.
“As a country we really needed this win to feel happy, even for a few hours”
Tuesday night’s match was played in Konya and started with a minute’s silence for the victims of the 10th October Ankara attack, which some Turkish fans refused to observe.
A tense match saw Gökhan Töre dismissed in the 78th minute as the match appeared to be heading for a draw. But Selçuk İnan’s last-minute goal from a 25 metre freekick snatched a dramatic victory for the Turks, giving them a total of 18 points from all ten group games.
It means Turkey qualifies for next summer’s tournament in France as the highest ranked third-placed team out of all nine qualifying groups.
Following last night’s euphoric result, manager Fatih Terim said: “As a country we really needed this win to feel happy, even for a few hours maybe. We are so happy to have offered some happiness to our people.”
The UEFA European Championships run from 10th June to 10th July 2016. Others joining Turkey in France include England, Wales, Northern Island, Germany, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Austria and Russia.
Main photo: Captain Arda Turan leads the celebrations after Turkey qualifies for Euro 2016. Photo: Facebook/UEFA