"How did the ball end up at our goalkeeper's feet after a corner kick?" asked a Turkish commentator Sunday, clearly disappointed by the national team's performance against Russia. The question was illuminating and it shows how the Turkish national team lacked any sort of organization. Case in point, on a routine corner kick, Turkey saw the ball quickly return all the way back to their goalkeeper.
Of course, one could understand such an action if it serves a different purpose, like a sophisticated plan executed by the goalkeeper. But that was not the case, the Turkish national team did not know what to do even on a simple corner kick. This sums up Mircea Lucescu's story as the Turkish national team coach.
Lucescu has repeatedly said that his aim is to create a team that will be able to play in Euro 2024. At the time, he might have thought that Turkey was going to win the hosting rights of the tournament [it did not, instead Germany won].
What this meant, however, was clear, I will create the future of the Turkish national team, so do not expect anything from the national team in the short run. In normal circumstances, I would definitely agree with Lucescu, and I would vouch for his plan. But I think this plan should be executed by someone else.
The main reason why I argue that Lucescu is not the right man for this job is that he is not actively creating the future of the national team. The idea is there, but in practice, the Romanian coach does nothing but shuffle his squad every game. There is no attempt by his team to play a sophisticated, repeatable game, unlike Lucescu claims. Thus, there is no process of growth, because there is simply no context where the knowledge gathered can become experience.
The Crescent Stars have not improved their game because they do not insist on a single strategy. Every game they change their squad and tactics, therefore rather than building something step by step, they start all over again. This issue falsifies Lucescu's claims that long-term success is his priority, as all of his actions are aimed at finding the best squad to win the next game. Yes, giving young players a chance to play in the national team is a big step and needs to be praised. But what exactly is Lucescu doing with those players? Is he giving them the proper experience to play within a certain strategy or does he only give them the experience of playing for the national team? The latter is surely important, but what the Turkish national football team needs more than anything right now is to build a footballing character, not mere footballing experience.
If the Turkish national team is going to sacrifice short-term success, then they better make those sacrifices count. As one of the well-known writers in Turkish history, Peyami Safa wrote, "Time ripens pears, not humans."
Turkey needs to actively create a footballing philosophy rather than waiting for it to come, otherwise, we will just keep doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result.
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