As the scrap for places at Brazil 2014 intensifies, Turkey find themselves in an unenviable position. Fourth in European Zone Group D, nine points adrift of leaders the Netherlands and with just three wins from seven matches thus far, they have just three games remaining in which to save their FIFA World Cup™ dream.
This perilous position recently prompted a change in the dugout, with federation president Yildirim Demiroren setting out the criteria for the new man in charge. “We needed an experienced coach who is hungry for success,” he said. Step forward Fatih Terim.
The 60-year-old is a man respected and renowned throughout football, with his achievements marking him out as the ideal candidate for a Turkish team facing such apparent difficulties. Terim, after all, has experience not only of winning six Turkish league titles and a UEFA Cup with Galatasaray, but also comes into the post as interim manager having enjoyed two prior successful stints in charge of the national team.
Now, having begun his third spell with a comfortable 5-0 win over Andorra on Friday, the man known in Turkey as İmparator (‘the Emperor’) faces an altogether tougher assignment away to second-place Romania. Turkey, Terim knows, are “chasing a miracle”. Nonetheless, in a candid interview, this vastly experienced coach spoke boldly of his confidence that the team can pull off an improbable escape act.
FIFA.com: Can you describe your emotions about returning as Turkey's national coach?
Fatih Terim: My principle has always been to respond positively when national duty calls. Therefore, whenever I believe there’s such a need and my employers approve such a role, I have no second thoughts of responding positively to the call. After receiving the offer from Turkish Football Federation, I approached the matter with this philosophy and the result is that I’m now in charge of the team.
What are your plans for the team? What needs to be changed?
Unfortunately, Turkey's recent results have fallen below expectations. Certainly, we are in a position that we don’t desire. But instead of making changes in the current team, I think we need to modify the base of the system and our youth development setup. It will be vital to implement the right project with the help of experts in these areas. However, our main priority is the Romania game and we are fully concentrated on that.
How would you evaluate the current situation in Group D? Do you feel that Turkey still have a chance of qualifying?
Instead of evaluating this matter on the basis of luck, it will be more reasonable to fulfil the needs of complex mathematical calculations in our group. Of course, achieving the impossible has always been my target but what we are chasing is a miracle now, and I am aware that performing this miracle depends not just on time but also several other factors. My aim is to ensure that our fans can watch entertaining performances from very talented players who can achieve anything if they really believe and work hard for their goals. For that reason, if we prepare well, work hard and reflect those efforts on the field, I am fully confident that we can achieve our miracle. I will certainly put all my efforts towards this and pray for it to happen.
Where do you believe Turkey currently stands in world football? And what is the team's potential?
Turkey have already shown what they are capable of with their past achievements and established their position in world football. With all my heart, I believe that we have significant potential. However, raw potential won’t deliver the results you need. What we need is to properly handle our talent and to combine smooth physical and psychological performance with world-class technique and tactical knowledge. In other words, processing the talent in the way it deserves and making it sustainable.
Do you think this current Turkish generation can follow in the footsteps of the generation that finished third at the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan?
Unless the world stops turning and the football industry stops developing, no two generations will be identical. Despite having common values, players who grew up in different cultures and conditions should be trained and handled according to their own generations. The 2002 generation played with great commitment and self-sacrifice and the 2008 crop were very ambitious. The 2013, 2014 and 2015 generation will be seen in a different way.