Turkey must use a new defensive strategy against France

ARDA ALAN IŞIK
ISTANBUL
Published 08.06.2019 00:17

After two successful friendlies against Greece and Uzbekistan, Turkey are heading towards the real test in the World Cup qualifiers. On Saturday, the team will play against the favorite of the group, France, just 72 hours after their primary opponent in the group, Iceland. Manager Şenol Güneş made it clear in his press conference that their current form is not enough to beat France, but he did not say anything about Iceland. This indicates that Güneş intends to get a point against France and then play for the win against Iceland. If that is truly the case, Turkey needs to play very carefully and collectively on defense to stop the top-class attackers of France.

However, even though France has many top-class players in their squad, their offensive strategies are not so top-class. Manager Didier Deschamps still uses the same counterattacking strategy that brought France the World Cup last summer. The forward line made up of Griezmann, Mbappe and Giroud best operates when they have lots of time and space, which is only found in counter-attacks. Nevertheless, France is not a typical counterattacking team, rather they are a counterpressing team. The dynamic midfield line made up of Pogba, Kante and Matuidi make it very hard for their opponents to dominate the midfield and build-up offenses. The real offensive danger France poses comes from balls intercepted by these three midfield players, who play it directly and quickly to the talented and fast attackers. That is why Turkey should not try to play possession against this aggressive midfield trio and should fight fire with fire. A midfield line with Dorukhan Toköz, İrfan Can Kahveci and Okay Yokuşlu would be ideal to counter the aggressive French trio. These three players have the sufficient defensive skills to cut the passing lines and cover the wings, where France loves to launch counter-attack. Given Turkey would not try to circulate the ball in the midfield, the extra defensiveness of the Turkish trio would not be much of a problem. If a draw is the goal, then this trio have the best chance of doing the job.

On the attacking side, without Cenk Tosun, manager Şenol Güneş can position Yusuf Yazıcı to the left wing to organize Turkish counterattacks. The primary goal should be playing long-balls to the running line of Cengiz Ünder, who can either play it inside to the penalty box or finish it by himself. But of course, to have this much of time and space with this kind of a primitive strategy, Turkey must resist the "French press" for at least 60 minutes. Only after that, the French defense can move forward, something they do not like to do, and leave enough space for Ünder to make dangerous runs. Therefore, the key is first stopping France in the midfield first to force them to come forward and then play long balls to Ünder to capitalize on the space they leave. If Güneş's team can utilize this strategy without a crucial mistake, with a bit of luck and France's inexperience in possession, a point can be likely.

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