Turkey ready for new era

Turkey ready for new era

SALZBURG, Austria - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkey ready for new era

Turkish national team players attend a training session in Salzburg, Austria, where they will start a series of friendly games tonight. Turkey plays Georgia, Finland, Bulgaria, Portugal and Ukraine in its European tour. AA photo

Turkey starts a new era with Abdullah Avcı as the national team coach with a friendly game against Georgia tonight. 

The Turkish national football team will take on Georgia in Salzburg, Austria as the first match in its European tour of friendly matches. 

The tour marks the start of Avcı’s planned and previously announced “rebuilding” of the national team. 
The former Istanbul BB coach, who was the longest-serving coach at the Turkish top-flight before leaving his club for the national team job, has the tough task of leading the team to the World Cup for the first time in 12 years. 

Turkey will meet the Netherlands, Romania, Hungary, Estonia and Andorra in a tough group in the qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup which will be hosted by Brazil. 

Avcı was brought to helm in November, replacing Guus Hiddink as head coach later last year after the Dutchman failed to lead the country to the 2012 European Football Championship. His first game was a 2-0 defeat against Slovakia earlier this year. 

Hiddink arrived in Turkey with high hopes after delivering success for previously unheralded countries such as South Korea and Australia, however, the team lost 3-0 on aggregate against Croatia in the playoff round to miss out on Euro 2012. 

“Hiddink was a really good coach but he criticized Turkish players for being highly emotional,” Avcı said in a press conference earlier this week. “Turkish coaches know better about Turkish players’ psychology and treat them the right way. So a Turk coaching the national team can be better.” 

After tonight’s game against Georgia, Turkey will meet Finland on May 26 and Bulgaria on May 29 in three games in Austria. Turkey will then fly to Lisbon to take on Portugal on June 2. The final exhibition game will be a game against Euro 2012 co-host Ukraine in Ingolstadt, Germany. 

Avcı said they tried to pick teams that resemble the playing styles of Turkey’s opponents in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers. 

“We will play teams that bear likeness to our opponents on the road to the World Cup,” Avcı said. “I believe in our national team pool and I firmly believe that we will be at the next World Cup.”

Avcı believes the European tour will be important for Turkey to concentrate on football again, with the country spending a long campaign marred by the match-fixing scandal. 

A total of 93 football players, coaches and officials were listed as suspects in the ongoing match-fixing case, which was investigating several games from the 2010-2011 Spor Toto Super League. In its own investigation, the Turkish Football Federation decided to clear teams of match-fixing charges but banned a total of 10 players and officials from football. 

“In the last year, football was not much talked about. All we talked about was the problems,” Avcı said. “Now we, as the national team, hope to make the country focus on football again.”