Turkish duo chasing historic victory
Played four, won four. Turkey are having a sensational FIFA U-17 World Championship, and with the clock counting down to their epic semi-final clash with Brazil, FIFA.com spoke to midfield powerhouse Nuri Sahin and team captain Erkan Ferin.
How does it feel to be in the last four of the FIFA U-17 World Championship?
Nuri Sahin and Erkan Ferin: Reaching the semis is all very well, but we want to be world champions.
You're playing Brazil. It must be like preparing yourselves for a final.
Nuri Sahin: Brazil are the best team in the world, and you don't play them every day. We're really looking forward to the game. We respect them, but we don't fear them. We watched them playing Korea DPR. Renato, Ramon and Anderson are exceptionally gifted strikers, but the team has problems at the back. We hope to exploit this weakness.
Do you feel that Turkey has an advantage by virtue of having had an extra 24 hours to relax compared to Brazil who had to go the full 120 minutes in the scorching heat of Iquitos?
Erkan Ferin: We played against China in Iquitos and it took its toll on the team. We were dehydrated by the end of the game. It takes a few days to recover. Two excellent sides will be battling for a place in the final though, and we have an equal chance. I don't see any obvious advantages or disadvantages for either team.
Do you think that taking an early lead is the way to beat the Brazilians?
Nuri Sahin: Our coach keeps telling us that discipline is the key to success. It doesn't matter who the opposition is. We keep to our game plan and force the other team to change theirs. We don't worry too much about scoring or not scoring an early goal. We won the first three games in the last ten minutes. We know that we will score at some stage because of our firing power up front.
Turkey played Brazil in the semi-finals of the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/JapanÔ. Will that game be at the back of your minds?
Nuri Sahin: Turkey have never won a competitive match against Brazil. A victory over the Brazilians in this game would be historic. Of course we have the 2002 match in mind, because everybody watched it. Victory in this game would be sweet revenge indeed.
Turkey have been nothing short of sensational in this tournament so far. How does this team compare with the side that won the European Championship?
Erkan Ferin: After the European Championship, we had three months to develop our game and improve the ways we move from a defensive to an attacking position. I think we have succeeded.
Nuri Sahin: Our defence has greatly improved since the European Championship. We're not so vulnerable at the back. In Italy we conceded a goal in almost every game. Our defenders now play an important attacking role and we are still lethal in front of goal. Tevfik Kose is one of the best U-17 strikers in Europe.
What are the particular strengths of the team?
Erkan Ferin: We have five technically mature attacking players who don't make mistakes. Our strategy is to get the ball as swiftly as possible from the back to the front of the pitch via the midfield.
The Turkish U-17 team has many fine players but the public seems to be interested in just a few. Do the other guys find that difficult?
Erkan Ferin: I don't have a problem with it. It's great to see some of our players getting that sort of publicity. We're proud of them. Everyone has a part to play within the team and every player is treated with the same respect.
How is the atmosphere within the squad?
Nuri Sahin: One of the strengths of our squad is that all 20 players get on well together. The squad likes to sit in front of the television and watch video recordings of our games. The players are not obliged to do this. In the evenings, we meet without the coach and talk about possible ways of improving our game. We promise each other that we will give our best for our country.
How do you rate the modern Turkish game?
Erkan Ferin: Turkish football has developed positively since Galatasaray's 2000 UEFA Cup victory and the national team's third-place finish in the 2002 FIFA World Cup. Our facilities have improved along with our style of play. We're trying to model ourselves on the English approach to the game.
Is the balance within the team at the centre of your present success?
Erkan Ferin: The new scouting system in Turkey has helped balance the team. This is one of our trump cards along with discipline and team spirit.
Nuri Sahin: Our national team coach receives league game reports on a regular basis. If a player stands out, our coach gets in touch with the team manager and invites the player for a trial. This is how one of our players got into the national team.
What do you do in your spare time during the World Championship?
Erkan Ferin: I like surfing the Web.
Nuri Sahin: Many of our players have brought their laptops. We don't have much time to use them though. We went to a disco in Iquitos after the match against China. And we went to the zoo one morning. We enjoyed that. But we don't have a lot of spare time and we don't need it either because we prefer to concentrate on our game.
You play for clubs in different countries, Galatasaray and Borussia Dortmund. Do you share your experiences?
Erkan Ferin: We frequently chat on the phone and over the Internet. We're good mates. The educational system in both countries differs. I've already finished school in Turkey, but Nuri still has to do his final exams in Germany. The football in both countries is similar because the game in Turkey has become very European.
Both of you are young players. Are you being looked after at these legendary clubs?
Erkan Ferin: Everybody gets the same chance. It all depends on your performance on the pitch. If another player is better than me, he plays. I don't. It's as simple as that.
Nuri Sahin: It doesn't matter how old you are. It depends on how well you're playing. For the first time in my career I'm part of a club squad that doesn't question the coach's choice of team. "Why is he playing instead of me?" is a question that you just don't hear here. That suits me.
How does it feel being the youngest player ever in the Bundesliga? Are you happy about it or is it a burden?
Nuri Sahin: I like the pressure. I've got to prove myself every time. I'm the youngest Bundesliga player of all time and I can't afford to make any mistakes because no one will say: "That's Nuri." They'll all say: "That's the youngest Bundesliga player of all time." I've got to live with the pressure. It's of my own making. I want to develop my game and hold a permanent first team place. Two Bundesliga appearances in a season are not enough for me. Because I'm one of the senior players in the national team along with Erkan and Tevfik Kose, I don't mind shouldering pressure. I'm the coach's right-hand man on the pitch during a match because I play my game in the centre of the pitch and it's easy for me to pass on the coach's directions to the rest of the team.
One final question - who will win the FIFA U17 World Championship?
Erkan Ferin and Nuri Sahin: Turkey!