Turkey should follow in the footsteps of Swedish football

Published 19.11.2018 19:33
Updated 21.11.2018 00:55

Here are just two statistics to start with - the average monthly salary of a player in the Swedish top tier is 1,675 euros, while the average monthly salary of a player in Turkish top tier is 8,500 euros. Also, the Swedish clubs on average earn 6.5 million euros a year, while in Turkey that number is 25.8 million euros.

On Nov. 17, the Swedish national team beat Turkey, who dropped to League C in the UEFA Nations League. With no great individual talents and coming from a smaller economic base, Sweden has outperformed Turkey not just in the Nations League but in recent tournaments as well.

With a much smaller football industry and an equally limited talent base, Sweden has managed to participate in the 2012 and 2016 European Championships and the 2018 World Cup, where it reached the quarterfinals.

Turkey, on the other hand, was only able to participate in the 2016 European Championship, which had 24 teams in the group stages. So, how does Sweden achieve continuous success in the international arena, while Turkey struggles to even participate in international tournaments?

The answer is talentless organizations.

Sweden is aware of their scarcity of talent and has developed a game that does not require a huge amount of individual talent to play, something it executed perfectly against Turkey this weekend.

Sweden's defensive positioning is superb, the team does not leave space to its opponent's attackers in their own half and strike fast with a simple counterattacking strategy. It is not the most elegant strategy, but it works most of the time. Considering that almost all European teams have already internalized these basics, it would be fatal to not have them.

Guess which team lacks good defensive positioning and a decent pressing strategy? Yes, Turkey. The team presents a great opportunity for talentless teams to utilize their organizational skills. I think Turkey's coach Mircea Lucescu believes that putting more players on defense is equivalent to better defending because he always plays two defensive midfielders. But football does not work that way anymore. As Sweden did against Turkey, the whole team should be defending regardless of their position. If any of the players do not press because it is "not their duty," the opponent is always able to find space even in the face of some intense pressing.

Now, I am aware that the Turkish national team is going through a transformation period and it is getting rid of all the old toxic-macho figures. But this does not justify all its failures. As I explained, it is not that hard to build a strategy around a talentless team that could bring success.

Mr. Lucescu should stop complaining about his players not having enough time in their clubs but rather build a game according to their capabilities. Then, we can talk about whether he needs better players or better regulations.

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