“I’ve been in this business 45, 46 years,” Fatih Terim said on Monday. “I know some people don’t like me. But almost all the big achievements in Turkey were achieved by me.”
Right or wrong, Turkey’s charismatic coach has fashioned another moment for his list.
Turkey fans had demanded a response to their side’s abject performances so far and were in ear-splitting form inside Stade Bollaert-Delelis as they met a Czech Republic team buoyed by a comeback against Croatia. They were rewarded for their faith.
Gutsy, combative and ruthless, Turkey snatched a priceless 2-0 victory to give themselves a chance of progressing to the Euro 2016 knockouts as a best third-placed team, sending their opponents packing in the process – just as they did with a 3-2 win at Euro 2008.
Terim’s long-winded rant at his detractors came after an appalling start to the group, one which he admitted surprised even him. Defeats to Croatia and Spain had left supporters jeering captain Arda Turan and the coach scrambling for answers as to just why a team who had lost just once in 16 matches before heading to France suddenly looked like Group D whipping boys.
Amid the anger with writers, reporters and a TV “professor of history”, Terim aimed a more latent swipe at his players. He questioned their preparation for the finals, their application in the pre-tournament training camp. He made no mention of specific individuals but he made it clear that he would not shirk from wielding the axe.
— OptaFranz (@OptaFranz) June 21, 2016
A befuddled message, perhaps, but a pointed one. And it certainly got through.
This match was a straight fight to see who would be in with a shout of the knockout stages, and it was Turkey who threw the right punches. After Czech Republic’s early pressure, Arda Turan released Emre Mor, and the youngster’s cross was swept home in style by Burak Yilmaz.
The Czechs enjoyed plenty of the ball and came close through Tomas Necid and Roman Hubnik, who hit the post, but Turkey were full value for their advantage when Ozan Tufan blasted home a crucial second from close range following a set-piece.
Mor deserves special mention. Making his first start at the tournament, the 18-year-old – snapped up by Borussia Dortmund before the finals – was a livewire on the ball, and his cross to Burak was superbly weighted and measured. Alongside captain Arda Turan, he brought pace and panache to the attack, and he almost scored a scintillating solo goal that will inevitably draw more comparisons with Lionel Messi.
Terim promised a few more home truths should Turkey go out, but for now, he’s found a way to keep them their tournament alive. Sorry we ever doubted you.