Nobody likes to lose, especially on a world stage, and it is never easy talking to the press following a setback, but Turkey’s talented midfielder Salih Ucan put his emotions to one side after the hosts' 1-0 defeat to Colombia and spoke frankly to FIFA.com.
“We were lacking in the final third and unable to find a way through. Colombia had done their homework and dealt with most of our attacking moves comfortably,” Ucan said, revealing considerable maturity in praising his opponents. Players as well as managers far older have shown less humility, finding solace in laying the blame elsewhere after a loss.
Ucan’s influence on the team becomes more evident with each passing game. The rising star is a great communicator and constantly in dialogue with players around him. Against Colombia he instructed his teammates when to press, keep possession and push forward. Asked about his growing leadership role, Salih said: “As a team we are always communicating with each other but I do step in when needed.”
Salih took responsibility when needed against Los Cafeteros and did not allow heads to drop after conceding the goal. Turkey’s No6 went into the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2013 amid high expectations after impressing for both Bucaspor and Fenerbahce. Putting a 19 year-old under such huge pressure can backfire, but Salih appears to be unfazed.
“I try not to listen to what is being said. My individual performances are not important; the success of the team is what I care about,” he said. The player, sporting a Marouane Fellaini-style afro, strongly believes teamwork is essential for success, an admirable quality for a player so young.
The FIFA U-20 World Cup has given a global platform to some of the greatest stars in world football, from the likes of Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero to Diego Maradona and Davor Suker. Salih made no secret of his desire to do well in the tournament: “All I dream of is winning the U-20 World Cup,” he said.
Hosts Turkey may not be the favourites to lift the trophy, but with the support of the home fans anything is possible, and a decent result against Australia in the final group match should see them into the knockout stage. Salih’s footballing idol is former French international playmaker Zinedine Zidane. And who knows? Perhaps the rising stars of future FIFA U-20 World Cups will tell us that they grew up wanting to be the next Salih Ucan.