Having guided Turkey to their first UEFA European Under-17 Championship since 2010, Hakan Tecimer – whose side were unbeaten in their six qualifying fixtures, winning four – believes his charges can make a considerable impact in Malta.
UEFA.com: It will be the first time in four years that Turkey will compete in the finals. Why do you think the break was so long?
Hakan Tecimer: The first matches in the qualifying and elite rounds are extremely important. Generally youth players tend to be a bit stressed in these games when they are not fully adapted to tournament football; after that they feel more comfortable. You need luck to be on your side too.
UEFA.com: What's the key to this team's success?
Tecimer: We did extensive research while building this team. They have been playing together for two years. Their cooperation on the pitch is excellent. Their friendship is close and this has been reflected in the games. Our players started to play better team football rather than trying to do something individually, and they saw this is an advantage for them. This group have performed really well and delivered football almost exactly in the way we wanted. There are really talented players in our group, who we believe in so much. We have a wide selection pool of players so, without modifying the backbone of the team, we were able to try different players. All those factors can be regarded as key for success.
UEFA.com: Turkey are in Group A along with hosts Malta, England and Netherlands. How do you see that?
Tecimer: We've only played against England before; we beat them 6-4 on penalties in an international tournament in France last year having been reduced to ten men after just five minutes. They are a team we can beat again. This generation of players are capable of playing head to head against any team. We're fully confident in our squad. We know that our players are talented, although of course, luck has to be on our side.
UEFA.com: What is your exact goal in the finals: results, development or both?
Tecimer: We set the target of being champions. Results and development should happen together. Young players need targets and we need to teach them such goals in tournaments like this. When they fulfil their targets, their confidence increases. Of course you teach the players both practically and theoretically, but you also need to show how to compete.
UEFA.com: Does the long absence from the finals mean more pressure?
Tecimer: I can understand the expectation. Why shouldn't our team play in the final? We tell the players to think about the next game, nothing else. Step by step you reach your target. Players should enjoy their football and reflect it on the field. They may feel a natural pressure; they need that. It's an experience and thoee tournaments are a vital source of it.
UEFA.com: Who are the favourites for this tournament?
Tecimer: We are. We're very confident in our team: their desire to win, ambition, determination, friendship and team play are all positive. They deliver results with good football. We've previously played against some of the leading teams and we never fear our opponents.
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