Three months ago, Fatih Terim accepted the perilous task of guiding the Turkish national team to the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany. With decisive qualifiers on the horizon, Terim travelled from a coaches' conference in Dublin to Peru to examine the potential of the Turkish representation at the FIFA U-17 World Championship with his own eyes. FIFA.com caught up with the 52-year-old at the team hotel, where he gave an exclusive interview.
Mr Terim, Turkey are out of the FIFA U-17 World Championship Peru 2005 after a memorable, narrow 4-3 defeat in the semi-final against Brazil.
To be frank, the results are not that important at all. I am only looking towards the 2008 European Championship and the 2010 World Cup. I am looking to the future and watching all of these talented young players. Our U-17 team is incredibly strong and I would like to underline the word "team" because they work very well together. I believe we have more talented young players in Turkey today than in the past. I have faith in this team because everybody - the players, coaches and other members of the team - are very experienced and believe in themselves. They have the right mentality to succeed. The team has grown together over the last two years via training camps, matches and the European Championship. All of that was important for confidence. Most of the players have a good chance of making it into the senior national team. I would say eight or nine players from almost all areas of the team. It is quite possible that I will be calling two players up to the senior team in the near future.
Let us guess - would Nuri Sahin be top of your list?
I have always had a weakness for young players. I brought through Emre during my time at Galatasaray for example. I introduced him into the team when he was 16 and a half. Nuri will also be nurtured gradually. He has already started two games for Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga, so why shouldn't he play for the national team?
There has been some discussion in Germany that Sahin could play for Turkey or Germany.
I have spoken to Nuri's father and he told me not to worry. He favours his son playing for Turkey even if he could theoretically play for Germany.
Turkey play Germany on 8 October in Istanbul. Might Sahin be used as early as this game?
That is quite possible. Timing is very important for young players and Nuri is currently in good form. He has played in the Bundesliga so why should he be restricted to the U-17s, U-19s or U-21s? Why shouldn't he play against Germany? You can tell everybody tomorrow, Nuri is the first in line of the young players. I made that decision a good three weeks ago.
Are there other players who could soon be playing for the senior team?
Tevfik Köse and Caner Ercik are potential candidates, as is Erkan Ferin.
How do you assess the standard of the FIFA U-17 World Championship Peru 2005?
Obviously I have been watching our team closely, but I have also seen other games. And I have to say the tournament has impressed me. All of the teams have good players and the tempo has been incredibly high for such young players. Every game is played at the same pace as a final or top-flight league game. That is very surprising for me. Whether it be Costa Rica, China, USA or the Netherlands - all of the teams have played at a very high tempo. The quality of this tournament is definitely better than two years ago in Finland.
Have you seen good players in other teams at this U-17 World Championship?
Players from other teams that have impressed me are Vurnon Anita from the Netherlands or Kaz Patafta from Australia. Renato of Brazil and Dos Santos from Mexico have also caught my eye. I was slightly disappointed by Italy, who normally produce a strong team, but overall all of the teams have good players for the future.
Could you give us an overview of the development of Turkish football in recent years?
After the Uefa Cup win in 2000 and the third place at the 2002 FIFA World Cup, we perhaps became complacent and allowed our work rate to ease off slightly. We already felt like a major footballing nation but we did not do enough. When you have success it is particularly important to work harder. Now things are improving for us step by step.
You mentioned earlier that there are more talented young players in Turkey than previously. Why is that?
The main reason is that we have improved our scouting. We look for new players throughout the whole country. The Turkish Football Association has introduced special measures to improve the training of coaches. We have a population of almost 80 million. Our new system prevents talent from slipping through our fingers so easily.
Can you still make improvements?
When I worked as a coach between 1990 and 1996, I travelled everywhere with my assistants to scout for talent. We have to do that again. At the end of October, we will be initiating a major scouting campaign in Germany. We want to watch a lot of games and look at 2,000 or 3,000 young Turkish players. There are 20 coaches and we will scout for three to four days. Then we will meet up, evaluate the results and continue to scout for the future. We will be doing that throughout Europe. So many Turkish people live outside Turkey, we simply have to do it. We have to spread the word not only in Germany but in Holland, Austria and everywhere: "We are interested in you!"
Let us finish by talking briefly about the senior national team. Do you still think they can qualify for the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany 2006?
When we play Germany on 8 October, Denmark play Greece. If Denmark win or draw, we have a good chance of making the play-offs. I would say our chances are around 70 per cent. It is important for Turkey to qualify because it would be a great shame not to play in Germany in front of the many Turks who live there. It would almost be like a home World Cup for us.