The Turkish national team caught the hearts and eyes of football fans around the world at EURO 2008 when they pulled off dramatic comebacks against the Czech Republic and Croatia before ultimately falling to powerhouse Germany. Two and a half years later, the Turks are in danger of not qualifying for a major tournament, something the country has become accustomed to. Despite earning World Cup bronze and a European Championships semi-final finish, the country have only ever participated in the respective competitions a total of five times combined. With the nation on the brink of it's biggest talent boon since the early 90's, the time is now for the “Cardiac Kids” to once again pull from behind.
Although new coach Guus Hiddink picked up where Fatih Terim had left off when it came to squad selection, winning resolved all problems; convincing wins over Romania and Kazakhstan were followed by a 3-2 jinx past Belgium. Everything seemed well until the matchup with the Germans. On paper, Germany was predestined to win, but not with such a large margin.
However, it wasn't until Azerbaijan's shocking upset that Hiddink finally saw the light.
Sitting on an incinerating hot seat, Hiddink decided to shake up the entire squad ahead of a friendly against the Netherlands, calling up a total of nine uncapped players. International icons Nihat Kahveci and Mehmet Aurelio were dropped, with Hiddink favoring emigrated Turks Mehmet Ekici (Germany) and Nadir Çiftçi (England) instead.
The results were not perfect, but there was certainly an improvement. With nothing to lose and everything to gain, players such as Serdar Kesimal and Yekta Kurtuluş proved themselves to be quality players with potential to become key cogs for the national team.
Kurtuluş even earned himself a transfer to Istanbul giant Galatasaray.
Floundering in third place after four matches was not the plan. To make matters worse, Austria can pull four points ahead if they can beat Belgium on March 25th. Fortunately for Turkey, the Austrians still have to face Germany twice.
Whatever happens to Austria, Turkey must focus on themselves and treat every upcoming match as a knockout match; there are no easy games left. Even the upcoming friendly against South Korea is important. Whether or not Hiddink keeps the same squad, the new generation have to pick up where the old left off in 2008 and bring the football-rich country back to the forefront.
The team's next match is a friendly against South Korean on 8 February. Their next EURO 2012 qualifying match is against Austria on March 29th.