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Sunday, June 5, 2011

Turkey’s Hiddink Dilemma

Going into the Turkish national team match against Belgium this past Friday, much of the speculation was on how the Turks would do against Belgium. Turkey needed maximum points against the Belgians in order to consolidate second position in Group A of the Euro 2012 qualifiers. With Belgium to play three matches after their match against Turkey, and with Turkey having four matches left after the match against Belgium, the Turks needed maximum points. However, a draw away in the Roi Badouin stadium in Brussels wouldn't spell the end of the world for Turkey.

Turkey would get exactly that result in Brussels. In the fourth minute, a costly mistake from starting left back Caglar Birinci led to Belgium's first goal. Marvin Ogunjimi made the Turks pay for an egregious mistake in the defense by giving Belgium the 1-0 lead. Turkey did equalize in the 22nd minute, as Arda Turan got behind the defense of Belgium, and passed the ball back to Burak Yilmaz to have him tie the match. Belgium would then take over the rest of the match. Turkey almost suffered a nightmare in the 75th minute, when a penalty was called against them. Axel Witsel put the resulting penalty over the crossbar and Turkey and Belgium tied 1-1.

So Turkey did not get the necessary result, but got a result that doesn't spell elimination from Euro 2012 qualification. However, there was also speculation of a different kind for Turkey. Speculation that head coach Guus Hiddink moving to Chelsea as either their head coach or sporting director, depending on what rumors one has read, hounded Turkey before, during, and after the match against Belgium. Hiddink had come out on the %100 Futbol (100% Football) program on Turkish channel NTV and denied the possibility of him joining Chelsea. However speculation still remained on whether Hiddink would stay with Turkey or take a job with Chelsea.

Even the Turkish Football Federation became unsure of whether Hiddink would remain as head coach. TFF spokesman Turker Tozar said that Hiddink has not said anything concrete as to whether he will remain as Turkish national team head coach. Hiddink was also elusive when asked whether he would coach Turkey against after the match against Belgium, completely avoiding answering that question. Naturally this raised the ire of Turkish national team fans. Many of them would like to see the back of Hiddink and have him quit. Even with a hard earned draw against Belgium, Turkish fans are starting to call for Hiddink to leave. Even a Twitter account under the handle "@hiddinkistifa" or Hiddink resign has been created. But even if Hiddink were to leave at this very moment, it would create far more problems for Turkey than solutions.

How that is possible one may ask? For one, a new coach will have to adjust quickly as the next qualifier is in September. Another thing is that the new coach will immediately be pressured to produce results, and many of the potential candidates are not ready for such a job. If Hiddink were to take a dual role as Turkish national team head coach and Chelsea sporting director for example, he can still produce for the national team and help out Chelsea as well. This is a situation similar to the one he had a few years ago, when he was Russian national team head coach and Chelsea manager simultaneously. Most likely, this will be the situation that will manifest itself over the next few weeks.

Many Turkish fans are complaining about Hiddink's selections and basically have thought of him as a fraud. This is an example of the knee-jerk mentality that Turkish fans have become famous, or infamous, for. The selections though seem not to be coming from Hiddink. Assistant coach Oguz Cetin, a holdover from Fatih Terim's reign as Turkish national team head coach, seems to have influence over the selections. One such selection is that of Colin-Kazim Richards, who has not found his previous form with Galatasaray after transferring to the club this past winter. Another selection that can be argued as a Cetin-influenced selection is that of Selcuk Sahin, who started the match against Belgium, and has never been considered close to average, much less a good player. It seems that the Turkish national team is becoming more of a "good ol' boys" club rather than the best players available in Turkey or who are Turkish, but born outside of Turkey.

As for thinking of Hiddink as a fraud, that is complete bunk. Hiddink has had success wherever he has gone, his reign as Fenerbahçe head coach aside. With the mentality that Turkish fans have, they really don't deserve an established manager like Hiddink. Fans have clamored for change under the Hiddink regime, but when change comes, they complain about why certain players aren't selected. An example of this is Ersun Yanal, former head coach of Gençlerbirliği, Ankaragücü, and Turkey (during the 2006 World Cup qualifying campaign). Yanal once left off Hakan Sukur off a national team roster, and many fans were complaining about why Sukur wasn't taken on the roster. Even if Hiddink were to make a complete overhaul of the Turkish national team roster within the next few months, fans will still find a reason to complain of why certain players weren't selected.

Whether Hiddink stays or leaves the post of Turkish national team coach is still to be seen. Hiddink will still be under pressure to deliver qualification to Euro 2012 to Turkey. But if Hiddink were to leave, Turkey would be in a bigger hole than they would be if Hiddink stayed. Turkey is still in good shape even after the draw against Belgium. With four matches left compared to Belgium's three, Turkey has a better chance of finishing in second place in their group and advancing to the Euro 2012 qualifying playoff. Considering that Turkey still has a chance of qualifying for Euro 2012, and he produced success with other countries, Guus Hiddink should be given the benefit of the doubt, whether Turkish national team fans like it or not.