Gulf Today

Kuntz feels like returning home after being named Turkey coach


ISTANBUL: Stefan Kuntz feels like he is “coming home” ater signing a three-year contract as Turkey’s national coach with the aim to guide them to their first World Cup finals in 20 years.

The 58-year-old former German internatio­nal striker scored nine goals playing for Istanbul-based side Besiktas in 1995/96.

Kuntz, who has establishe­d his coaching reputation on the back of coaching Germany to two European Under-21 titles (2017/21), looked back on those days with longing while formally signing his contract to replace Senol Gunes as Turkey’s new head coach.

“It’s like coming home. It was an unbelievab­le one year in Besiktas,” Kuntz told reporters at the signing ceremony in Istanbul.

“My wife even still tells me we made a mistake, that we let Turkey too early.”

No financial terms of the deal were disclosed. The football federation decided to part ways with Gunes ater Turkey got thumped by the Netherland­s 6-1 in a 2022 World Cup qualifier earlier this month -- one of the worst losses in their history.

Turkey are siting third behind the Netherland­s and Norway in World Cup qualifying Group F.

This leaves them in danger of failing to qualify for a fith successive World Cup finals.

Their last appearance in 2002 saw them stun pundits by storming into the semi-finals and ultimately finish in third place.

“Hopefully, we can play once again in a World Cup finals ater 20 years.” said Turkish Football Federation president Nihat Ozdemir.

The football-mad nation held out high hopes for the 69-year-old Gunes -- who guided Turkey to the 2002 World Cup semi-finals -- when he took charge of the team again in 2019.

Turkey appeared to have a good mix of veterans and young talent that performed admirably in qualifiers for the pandemic-delayed Euro 2020.

But they lost all three matches in the tournament while conceding eight goals and scoring just once.

They followed that up with a lacklustre draw against Montenegro and a 3-0 victory against lowly Gibraltar before being humiliated by the Dutch.

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