An ambitious and wildly talented Turkish outfit have their sights set on conquering the world here in Nigeria at the U-17 finals. If they plan to reach that rather lofty target, it just might be their goal-hungry hit-man Muhammet Demir that puts them over the top.
A powerful and compact striker, the young No9 has already made his first team debut in the Turkish top flight with climbers Bursaspor, and his two goals in two games here in west Africa have him looking like arguably the top marksman of the tournament. As any good forward should, Demir always has goals on his mind.
"It was difficult watching the game from the bench today," the youngster told FIFA.com after coach Abdullah Ercan, assured of first place after wins over Burkina Faso and Costa Rica, rested his young star [and three other starters] for the final Group D match in Calabar. "It's no secret that I want to finish top scorer here at the World Cup; if a striker says he doesn't then he's a liar," Demir laughs, leaning against a wall outside the doping control room at the U.J. Esuene stadium.
"Right now there is one German player ahead of me in the scoring tables," he says, referring to Germany's Lennart Thy who has one more than the Turk. "But that's OK. I think our team is going to be here at these finals through to end, and I will have plenty more chances to score," the rangy forward added with a mischievous grin.
Not only is the youngster hoping he can finish top of the scoring charts, but more importantly, he is convinced his side can be crowned junior world champions when the dust settles on African soil. "I just want us to win, most of all that's what I want. I think if we continue to play to our top level we can be world champions," continued Demir, whose link-up play with elegant creator Engin Bekdemir has been a delight.
"We are a very strong team. I know everyone says that about their team, but we are a tight-knit group," he goes on. "Each one of our players, starters or off the bench, play at a very high standard. We're friends, we're team-mates, we're family."
Ercan the idol
The man largely responsible for keeping the side tight and together is head coach Ercan. And as his young team aim to take Turkey to the summit of junior football in Nigeria, Ercan has already tasted glory under the nation's standard.
As a member of the Turkish side that reached the semi-finals of the FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan 2002™, his name is forever etched in the annals of the country's football. "He [Ercan] talks to us a lot about his career and the 2002 World Cup. It is inspiring for us."
When asked about that particular moment of history, and where he was when it all went down in the summer of 2002, the youngster blushes a bit and turns away with a smile, half-laughing. "I was in primary school and the teacher brought a tiny TV into the classroom so we could watch the quarter-final game against Senegal," the player recalled. "When [Ilhan] Mansiz scored [the winner in extra time] I went so crazy jumping up and down that I fell down, hit my head on the floor and got a nasty cut! I was so happy, I didn't even feel it."
It is a certainty that young Muhammet is willing to spill a little more blood and sweat in search of an historic world title...and who knows, perhaps a top scorer trophy too.