Turks celebrate after grabbing bronze

ANKARA, Turkey, AP

Thousands of people partied in the streets Saturday after Turkey’s national soccer team captured third place in the World Cup in an unexpected tournament success.

Immediately after Turkey’s 3-2 victory over co-host South Korea, Turks flooded the streets to celebrate a win that marked a dramatic end to the country’s 48-year absence from soccer’s premier event.

“I’m so excited. I never thought we could make it this far,” said Cetin Kargin, a jeweler.

Thousands danced, screamed and waived red and white Turkish flags in Kizilay square in the capital Ankara. In a few minutes, the square became a makeshift carnival with loudspeakers pumping pop and folk-music and vendors selling souvenir headbands and corn-on-the-cob.

Many Turks painted their faces red and white and wore team jerseys to celebrate what many Turks consider to be the greatest achievement in the country’s sports history.

The jubilation during the tournament has been a welcome relief from the country’s gloomy economic crisis and political uncertainty. The nation’s economy shrank 9.4 percent last year, leading to massive layoffs.

But nobody thought about any of that Saturday.

“We could forget all of our worries and our economic problems for a month thanks to our national squad. Bravo!” said Ebru Cakmak, 20.

Cars drove around the Turkish capital blaring their horns loudly to thank the national squad for its victories. Some fans sat in the cars’ windows and waived flags out of the moving cars.

In Turkey’s last World Cup appearance in 1954, Turks did not make it beyond the first round. But at this year’s tournament, Turkey was only beaten twice, both times by finalist Brazil.

In Istanbul’s Taksim square, thousands also danced and waved flags. There were similar scenes across Turkey.