FIFA Technical Study Group (TSG) member for the FIFA U-20 World Cup Turkey 2013 Muhsin Ertugral talked to FIFA.com about the dynamics of the tournament. Among the topics covered were the surprise teams and the differences in footballing cultures across the continents.
Born 1959 in Istanbul, this vastly experienced coach has a wealth of international experience, having worked in Germany and at multiple clubs in Africa. This pan-continental knowledge has given Ertugral a deep understanding of the game and its varying footballing cultures. Ertugral shared his views on the FIFA U-20 World Cup being hosted by Turkey and the current state of football within the host nation.
FIFA.com: With the exception of France many of the pre-tournament favourites were eliminated in the early stages. With so many surprise teams in the latter stages what kind of final do you predict?
Muhsin Ertugral: Having four teams from four different continents in the semi-finals is a surprise to us all. I expected France and Uruguay to reach the latter stages. Many were shocked to see Uruguay eliminate Spain but they have a very talented squad. Ghana have a good history in the tournament and were champions just four years ago, but nobody could have imagined Iraq making it to this stage. It really is a surprise for the young Iraq side to have made it so far in the tournament. As for the final, my prediction from the outset was to see a South American nation face a European side.
Why do you think so many of the games have been high-scoring?
There has been less emphasis on possession of the ball. Teams such as Ghana and Iraq are playing a very direct style of football. The standard of goalkeeping has also not of the highest level. In addition to this with the players being young and inexperienced, they’re susceptible to lapses in concentration, which often result in soft goals being conceded.
Are teams placing less importance on defending?
I don’t believe that’s the case. For example Italy didn’t qualify for the competition, but had they done so, we would all be commenting on the strength of their defence. I also believe Uruguay have defended well during the tournament so far, but the hardest team to break down have been France. Maybe some teams are adopting a direct approach as they’re defensively weak.
The traditional South American No10 had fallen out of favour, and the biggest shift we’re likely to see in the near future as a result of this tournament is its return.
Which teams have altered their tactics the most during the tournament?
Portugal played with differing personnel and tactics throughout the World Cup. France attempted to switch to a 4-4-2 formation when they played Spain, but it failed as the formation did not suit their system or squad. Chile also changed tactics throughout the competition – at times they moved players from midfield into more attacking positions. But in their last game this played into Ghana's hands.
Many of the teams, including Turkey, seem to have adopted the 4-2-3-1 formation. Is this the future of football?
This is just a trend. If a team has two talented wingers and they attack at the same time, you have no choice but to deploy two holding central midfielders. However if you focus your attacks through the centre of the field like Spain do, you have to use a different formation. Spain play with just one holding midfielder – it's as if they cloned Sergio Busquets, as they play a system almost identical to the senior side. All in all a formation is based on the players available in the team. For that reason I believe the 4-2-3-1 is just a trend in football.
We’ve seen many players in the traditional “No10” mould at Turkey 2013. Given that this role has been less prominent in recent years, what would you put this down to?
Yes, the traditional South American No10 had fallen out of favour, and the biggest shift we’re likely to see in the near future as a result of this tournament is its return. Everybody is talking about [Colombia’s Juan] Quintero and [Uruguay’s Giorgian] De Arrascaeta. I believe we can add Hakan Calhanoglu to this list as will. Turkey being eliminated early prevented us seeing more of what Calhanoglu can do. Had they gone further in the tournament, he would have been one of the stars.
How would you asses Turkey's performance at the FIFA U-20 World Cup?
First of all Turkey can learn many lessons from the performance of the national team here. After analysing their performance, I feel they move the ball forward too fast and let their emotions get the better of them. The players are not consistent throughout the full 90 minutes. They get forward in numbers but not in an organized fashion. Everything is planned from the moment Turkey gain possession of the ball, and not a lot of thought is put into winning possession from the opponent. Turkey were poor when they didn’t have possession.
Their technical ability is at a high level – they have players who dribble well and can string quick passing combinations together. It's a great generation of players.
Man marking versus zonal marking is one of the long running debates among football coaches today. Which defensive strategy do you prefer?
I would re-phrase that question, as zonal marking is still a form of man-marking. When a player enters your zone you still mark the man, and once he leaves your zone you stop marking him. This is one of the mistakes many coaches make. The position of the ball and personnel is also an important factor. If you have a fast dynamic players in your team, then you can push the defensive line further up the pitch.
What is your opinion on the use of zonal marking for defending from corners?
For corners it is a different situation. If my memory serves me right, zonal marking during corners was first used in the Netherlands. I tried to use it whilst coaching over there and the main problem is that if even one player has a lapse in concentration, his zone will be exposed. The system definitely has its risks and it was also strange that throughout the tournament not many keepers wanted a defender on the goal posts.
The biggest revelation of the tournament has been Iraq. How would you explain their achievements in the competition?
They have lots of interesting players. Their technical ability is at a high level – they have players who dribble well and can string quick passing combinations together. It's a great generation of players for them, and they’ve developed a footballing philosophy. They play with width and like to dribble down the wings and attempt long shots whenever possible. Humam Tareq has been very impressive. I’ve also been surprised by Iraq's goalkeeper. Despite making a couple of errors with his handling, he organizes the defence well and those at the back trust him. I watched Iraq closely in their game against Chile, when they never stopped attacking even after taking the lead. Their spirit is amazing.
Finally, how do Turkey build upon their performance in this tournament?
After their experience at this highly regarded FIFA tournament, all the parties involved in Turkish football must sit down and work out a way to improve the current situation. There are many examples now of teams reaping the rewards of having a thriving youth development system. Take Germany, for example. In 2002 the German Football Federation brought in a ruling making it obligatory for every club to establish an academy. Just over ten years have passed and look at the results. Turkey must start to develop players at younger ages, and we have to learn from the mistakes made at the U-20 World Cup.