It just can't get any worse! Turkey, the 2002 World Cup and Euro 2008 semifinalist, losing 1-0 to Azerbaijan in their Euro 2012 Group A match in Baku on Tuesday is a humiliation too great for any Turk to bear.
Captain Rashad Sadygov scored the only goal of the match in the 38th minute, when he hit a Vagif Javadov pass from a corner kick past Fenerbahçe goalkeeper Volkan Demirel. Turkey went close when Bayern midfielder Hamit Altıntop rattled the crossbar with a powerful long-range shot in the 18th minute.
The defeat is really hard to swallow because it is the first time in the history of mankind that tiny Azerbaijan has beaten its mighty neighbor and also because it came on the heels of Turkey's 3-0 rout at the hands of Germany in Berlin on Friday night.
And the man who has brought Turkish football into disrepute is none other than the underachieving, 63-year-old Dutch coach Guus Hiddink. The Baku debacle is tantamount to "football sacrilege" – as we know it – and therefore the culprits cannot go unpunished.
Hiddink himself knows more than anyone that this disgraceful result is no laughing matter. "It's not hard to guess how sad your nation is," the Dutchman said, during his post-match news conference. "Losing two matches in four days is something rare in my [coaching] career. Germany is a world-renowned team, and losing to them is understandable. But the defeat by Azerbaijan is unacceptable," he said.
To put it succinctly, we agree 100 percent with Mr. Hiddink. But the question is: "If the defeat is unacceptable, then what is Hiddink's next course of action?"
We say the "Jonah" should be cast into the sea. But the "Jonah," it appears, is dragging his feet. Asked at the press conference if he intended to resign following the Baku disaster, Hiddink said diplomatically: "Time will tell. We have plenty of time before our next qualifiers."
Also asked about his pre-match pledge to beat the Azerbaijanis, the Dutchman replied jokingly, "I hope Azerbaijan surprises the other teams [in Group A]."
Gravity of the situation
Hiddink, maybe, does not have the slightest idea about the gravity of the situation. With two wins and two defeats in four outings, Turkey is on the verge of missing out on Euro 2012. Yet the Dutchman is talking about "plenty of time" and making jokes. The Dutch coach should make sure his ears hear what his mouth utters – let alone try to be funny – because whatever he says now infuriates the disillusioned fans.
Hiddink reportedly was acquired for 4 million euros to form a new Turkish team and lead the Turks to both the Euro 2012 and 2014 World Cup finals, after Turkey failed to qualify for the 2010 world cup in South Africa over the summer.
The idea was for the Dutchman to scout out a few new Turkish talents, both at home and abroad, and bring them together as a team. But with 4 million euros in his pocket, Hiddink found the easy way out – continuing the failed legacy of his predecessor, Fatih Terim.
The Dutchman has only added one notable player to Terim's team: 33-year-old Bursaspor defender Ömer Erdoğan, who will be 35 in 2012 and 37 in 2014 – if Turkey were to qualify for these tournaments.
"When you see how the [Azerbaijani] goal was conceded, it was a set piece. Everyone knew what they had to do, who they had to mark, but they were fooled by the step-over. It is a lack of concentration," Hiddink said.
Thou shalt not complain
Well, it is not the job of a coach making 4 million euros to complain about what should and what shouldn't have been done on the pitch. He's paid that envious sum to right the wrongs.
Without mincing words, the worst Turkish coach would have achieved more than Hiddink has done so far with the national team. And everyone is questioning the wisdom behind wasting so much money to bring the Dutchman to Turkey.
The people who brought him here also share the blame because they did not do their homework. Hiddink coached a total of 11 teams – including four national teams – before coming to Turkey.
The records show he succeeded at club level with PSV Eindhoven, but not with the others. At the national level he led host South Korea to fourth place in the 2002 Worlds. For Turkey, which made it to the semis of the World Cup in 2002 and Euro 2008, anything short of the titles will not be considered great success. But, with Hiddink at the helm, the chances of the Turks qualifying for these competitions and then winning them are almost nonexistent.
Make hay while the sun shines! All we are saying is that Hiddink must go. And the sooner the better.
The Germans have maximum points in Group A, which they lead by five points after a 3-0 victory in Kazakhstan. Striker Miroslav Klose took his tally to six in the four qualifying games early in the second half, after a goalless first period. Austria moved to second in Group A, after scrambling a 4-4 draw away against Belgium.
'Enough is enough,' says captain Emre
A downcast Turkey captain Emre Belözoğlu said after the match he would retire from the national team in 2012, regardless of whether they made it to the finals, due to the stress.
"There is too much pressure on us; it sometimes feels like we are carrying the whole nation. We make huge amounts of money, and we should not be in this position against a team who probably make 20-30 times less money than we do. I may be still physically healthy, but I am not sure if I will have the mental health to face this pressure after a certain point."