Turkey’s winning formula against France today should be the same one it applied in June. In their last matchup, with some occasional counterpressing and good dead-ball set pieces, Turkey was able to find two goals, but the real deal was their defense. Turkey was able to block the build-ups between France’s midfield and attackers, forcing the blues to make blind crosses from the wings where Turkish defenders shine. With some luck and the obvious inertia in the French team, Şenol Güneş was able to get three points. This strategy, although it will give the initiative to France, has to stay the same. Because it is this system that has so far pushed Turkey to the top spot. If Güneş makes a sudden change before the game - defensive or offensive - this would throw Turkey’s rather stable defensive system out of balance. However, here is the more difficult part - in June, the French national team was still in the world champion mood and after a rough season their players were ready to take a break. They were not taking the game seriously, thinking that their abundant talent would be enough to seal the deal. In contrast, the Turkish national team has been craving success after some turbulent times and it was the best opportunity for coach Güneş to prove himself in his new role. Thus, the teams were in completely different mental conditions, which gave Turkey a great advantage in the first game. Unfortunately, that advantage is gone now, even though Turkey is still highly motivated. France wants to finish the group stage with this game and let its players concentrate on their harder Champions League or local league ambitions. This means that mentally both teams are fair game now.
Added to that, since Turkey found goals from occasional counterpressing and dead balls in the first game, France will be extra-cautious against these tactics. If successful, France will severely blunt Turkey’s offensive edge. A draw would not be a bad result for Turkey, especially after beating France in the first game. Thus, France would mostly keep possession and press forward, something Turkey would want to happen too. This will give the Crescent-Stars enough time and space to launch counterattacks if there are enough players close to the midfield. The determining factor in the game will be the positioning of the center of Turkey’s game. If coach Güneş positions the majority of his team near his penalty box, it would only be an invitation for France to score. Güneş must make sure that his team is able to both outman France in the midfield and launch counterattacks to push them back. For this, of course, a huge mental strength is necessary. Luckily, the Turkish national team does not lack confidence at this moment.
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