Turkey's Euro 2020 qualification much-awaited success story

Source: Xinhua| 2019-11-21 23:46:36|Editor: yan
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ANKARA, Nov. (Xinhua) -- The Turkish national football team turned a new page after nearly a decade of bitter disappointments by qualifying to the Euro 2020, bringing fresh hope to a country where football is the top sport.

Turkey wrapped up the qualifying stages of the UEFA Euro 2020 as the second in Group H with a 2-0 victory over Andorra on Sunday.

Experts have said that this success belonged to a rejuvenated team under the helm of experienced coach Senol Gunes, which has restored faith in football.

The 67-year-old former goalkeeper took the post in February, and led Turkey to the third place in the 2002 World Cup during his first spell in charge

He replaced dismissed Romanian coach Mircea Lucescu, following a series of bad results as Turkey failed to qualify for last year's World Cup in Russia.

Gunes went down in history and became the first Turkish head taking his country to both the World Cup and Euro tournaments.

This qualification was long-awaited in Turkey as the national team finished dead last in the Euros groups in 2016, and it hasn't advanced to a World Cup since 2002.

In the very first game last year in Konya, central Turkey, the national squad managed to beat France 2-0, for the first time in its history, showing that the Turkish football is not the sick man of Europe anymore.

"The recent success of the national team definitely boosted the country's motivation and moral ... A rejuvenated and clean cut team has brought a sympathetic squad forward, bringing hope to supporters," Turkish football specialist Arda Alan Isik told Xinhua.

He, however, cautioned that things could go back where they were if a long-term program is not adopted for sustained results by the Turkish football federation and government authorities as he believes that the current success is the consequence of coach Gunes's personal initiatives.

According to Isik, the next step will be more challenging for Turkey who has to continue its successful defensive approach at the Euro 2020, combining it with a more aggressive offensive in order for the Turks, which will face tougher opponents than in qualifiers, to be successful.

The young Turkish team has brought renewed interest for the national team, crippled by bad results in the past decade and also by controversy and a financial crisis which has impacted the three big clubs of Istanbul, Turkey's economic and football capital.

"We have to ensure that the Turkish population's interest to sports in general be increased, not only via television but also by local means and initiatives," Isik added.

The Turkish Super League was considered less than a decade ago one of Europe's strong leagues. Match fixing scandals, internal problems in Istanbul's so called "big three" football giants, Fenerbahce, Galatasaray and Besiktas, and financial debts, have contributed to the downturn of the national squad over the years.

The big teams have labored under crippling debt and a lack of accountability. They have spent too much on foreign players, especially on the ageing ones with inflated sums, and are now facing huge debts.

A problem that reflects, according to experts, Turkey's wider economic problems as the nation is struggling to overcome a crippling recession under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, himself a former semi-professional footballer.

Conscious that football is a serious and truly venerated institution by fans in Turkey, the government has initiated a financial scheme addressing some of the distress of the clubs which now have to be accountable in front of the football federation.

"Senol Gunes and his cast of young players have brought back the love for the national team who's popularity had eroded over the years because of various reasons," said veteran football commentator Erman Toroglu in Sabah daily.

"Just as the national team had hit rock bottom, good playing brought the Turkish national squad from the abyss. Turkish fans were fed up with spoiled and moody players," commented Toroglu adding that Gunes restored faith in the national team which seems to be risen from the ashes.