Turkish national team

The Emperor, Sultan, and Godfather – few monikers associated with legendary Turkish manager Fatih Terim.

Recently, the Turkish National team drew against Eastern Europeans Latvia and earned a comfortable 3 – 0 victory against 2010 World Cup finalists – the Netherlands keeping their hope to qualify for the Euro finals, in France next year, alive. Though the win has negated any questions surrounding the nation’s yearning to perform, many yet find it hard to understand Turkey’s performance through the qualification round.

The Crescent-Stars failed to impress in their first three games in the qualification round, losing against minnows Iceland (3-0) and Czech Republic (2-1) while pulling a vital draw with Lativa. One point in three games put Fatih Terim under constant threat of getting the sack considering the national team boasts of a squad not lacking in talent with the likes of Barcelona’s winger Arda Turan and Galatasaray’s Burak Yilmaz and Seluc Inan, among the others.

Perhaps, the main reason behind the shaky performance could be attributed to…well the manager himself. Fatih Terim failed in his attempt to win the locker room battle by consistently formulating bad decisions on the conflict surrounding players Tore and Toprak, the latter considered as one of the best center backs in Bundesliga.

For those who are not aware of the incident, here’s the crash course: Besiktas’ midfielder Gökhan Töre and an unknown armed friend decided to threaten Leverkusen’s Omer Toprak at gunpoint, who at the time was sharing a hotel room with National team Midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu. Reason being that Töre’s ex-girlfriend dated a friend of Toprak – yes that’s most of it. The incident was largely hidden out of sight of the media in Turkey however the 21-year-old midfielder Hakan Çalhanoğlu revealed it the incident to Germany’s ZDF television channel. Gokhan Töre did not return to the national team until the Leverkusen duo Çalhanoğlu and Toprak were injured. After reaching full fitness, both were surprisingly left out by Terim for the friendly against Brazil and the Euro 2016 qualifier against Kazakhstan while Töre remained in the squad. As Toprak questioned his own omission from the team and Töre’s involvement, Terim defended his own decision saying that Töre deserved to be forgiven. While Çalhanoğlu and Töre reconciled, it is yet to be known if Töre and Toprak did the same. However, it is clear that Terim’s effort to brush Töre as the victim raised quite a few eyebrows.

The other major reason behind the downfall revolves around the technical aspects within the Turkish game. Despite of the fact that the selection was on point in the last game and that Terim has clubs like AC Milan and Galatasaray in his resume, ‘the Emperor’ wasn’t successful in his third term with the national team.

The way I see it, Turkey should implement the 4-2-3-1 line-up with Volkan Babacan between the sticks. It may sound weird for those who do not really follow Turkey as a more common name would have been Volkan Demirel but the İstanbul Başakşehir F.K. GK had an outstanding season last year keeping several clean sheets in domestic league games.

Defensively, Fenerbahce duos Gokhan Gonul and Caner Erkin alongside Galatasaray’s Semih Kaya and Serdar Aziz as CB’s make for an ideal defensive line. Aggressiveness and the fact that the average height between the four being 182cm only helps the team in during long ball plays and set pieces.

Moving to the midfield, I certainly am not an admirer of grabbing big names, throwing them together and asking them to perform. Hence, dropping BVB’s midfielder Nuri Sahin for the outstanding Ozyakup, whose vibrancy and urge to move the ball forward at every play makes for an entertaining game, would make life much more simpler for Seluck Inan who could instead focus on the defensive tasks on hand. Trabzonspor’s Mehmet Ekici should play in front of the midfielders as he has the ability to track back as the vital 3rd central midfielder during a given game. Ekici’s creativity and his knack for goals from set pieces, is reminiscent of a style similar to that of Andrea Pirlo, David Beckham and Ronaldinho (not that I am comparing him with the legends, but he has the potential to make it).

Bayer Leverkusen’s midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu is comfortable causing havoc on the wings, while the bearded man on the left flank has the ability to disrupt any defenders with his pace, dribbling skills and an aptitude to strike the ball from the distance. Then there is Arda Turan’s work rate, which needs no explanation.

Galatasaray frontman Burak Yilmaz continues to yield goals consistently at both domestic and national levels, and at the rate he is going, it will take some really talented striker to displace Yilmaz from his position.

Regardless, after the successful team effort against the Dutch, all eyes would be on the national team and Fatih Terim to see how the team progresses from here on. I, for one, would love to see all these names playing in the Euro next summer.


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