It was a frustrating week for Turkish football after Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe were both eliminated from the Europa League. Actually, both ties were close despite their opponents being relatively stronger. However, the number of simple mistakes and lost opportunities made the elimination even more frustrating. This has become a chronic problem for Turkish football as teams continuously struggle to go beyond the quarterfinals stage in European tournaments. The fact is there is a sharp distinction between the football played in Turkey and the one played in the Europa and the Champions League.
The most striking examples of this problem were the two games played between Galatasaray and Benfica. Although Galatasaray is able to create opportunities through counterpressing against the slow and disorganized defenses of mediocre Turkish teams, when faced with an opponent like Benfica that spends no time in defensive build-ups, it was left clueless.
Furthermore, strikers like Mbaye Diagne can be effective only when the game is being played around the opponent's penalty box. Thus, when Benfica stopped Galatasaray further away from their goal and did not allow them to push the game into the final third, Diagne became completely ineffective.
However, this is a pure tragedy since Galatasaray invested almost all of their transfer money on Diagne and it turned out to be a very simplistic and superficial investment. For sure, Diagne can score against Turkish teams, which do not possess the defensive and organizational skills like Benfica. But when it comes to the European arena, a Diagne-centered game becomes the problem itself.
Same can be said for Fenerbahçe, which lost the qualification by a one-goal difference. Coach Ersun Yanal's team pulled themselves together in the Turkish Super League, but this was mainly due to the dynamism Victor Moses brought to the attacking half. When Zenit blocked Moses from making deep runs and wreaking havoc inside their defense by marking him strictly, Fenerbahçe's offensive efforts were in vain. Added to that, Fenerbahçe was not tested by swift counterattacks, the ones Zenit unleashed upon it, in the Super League. Eventually, the Canaries gave their opponents lots of opportunities. The point is we can always claim that the difference in the quality of football is too much or the referee decisions always fail us, but these arguments will take us nowhere. History has repeatedly shown and continues to show that to play good football you do not need a bunch of high-quality players but only a group of players who know how to play a high-quality game. That is why I keep criticizing the type of one-sided football being played in Turkey. It basically trains our teams to fail at the international level. If Turkish teams want to be more successful in the European arena, they need to experiment with different types of strategies and have alternative plans when things go south. Otherwise, they simply cannot be more competitive in Europe.