Under new manager Şenol Güneş's command, Turkey has won three games in a row. The team managed to beat Albania and Moldova in the EURO 2020 qualifiers in March, and this Thursday Greece was also added to the list. With Roma winger Cengiz Ünder and Trabzonspor winger Yusuf Yazıcı leading the attacks, Turkey had good dynamism in the final third. Although there were three players who made their debut with the national team, the team did not make lots of simple mistakes. Thus, with proper management and enough time, this Turkish national team can return to the international arena as a contender.
However, proper management of these young talents is the most crucial element in success. Güneş needs to make sure that these talents can operate in an organized and consistent manner. When Turkey meets the French national team next week and Iceland three days after, Ünder and Yazıcı may not find the time and space they did against Greece. So, to keep the attacking part dynamic and effective, Güneş needs to build set-pieces, which can be repeated to find opportunities. So far, the only strategy has been shifting the wings with long balls. This was enough to throw Albanian, Moldovan and Greek defenses out of balance, but the real opponents of Turkey are Iceland and France, which are much tougher nuts to crack in defense.
On the other hand, unfortunately, the defensive part of the story is not as promising as the offensive part. There is not a great problem with the players on defense individually, but their positioning and reaction to opponent attacks are problematic. Due to a lack of experience of playing together, the defensive line does not act as a whole at the moment, and that is a big issue. I understand Güneş's decision to try to find the best players, but the best ones also need to play together. Otherwise, they cannot cover their mistakes or make the right runs at the right time.
The second issue with defense is that they do not support the offensive part as much as they could. Although Greece did not press Turkey's defense and allowed them to come forward, Güneş's team had 20- to 30-meter gaps between defense and midfield. This made the team vulnerable against counterattacks, as Turkey could not regain the ball quickly after losing it in the midfield. Greece could have scored more than one goal if they had been more careful with their finishing, and it is a fact that France and Iceland can make those opportunities count. Therefore, the priority should be achieving defensive togetherness and positioning in the following national team breaks.
However, I think Turkey should not focus on winning against France and Iceland at this moment; rather they should invest in this team for the long-term. Because let's face it, Güneş just arrived in March, and he was still Beşiktaş's manager a week ago, so it is not plausible to expect magic in the short-term. But he can transform this team into a contender in one or two years, if he respects the potential of the team and the work that needs to be done to utilize this potential.
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