Istanbul (AFP) – Stefan Kuntz feels like he is “coming home” after 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 left Turkey too early.”
No financial terms of the deal were disclosed.
The football federation decided to part ways with Gunes after 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 sitting third behind the Netherlands and Norway in World Cup qualifying Group F.
This leaves them in danger of failing to qualify for a fifth 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 after 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.
Kuntz said his immediate task was getting the team ready for their crunch match against Norway on October 8 in Istanbul.
“I am full of positive energy because I know the potential of Turkish players,” he said. “We are full of self-confidence that we will celebrate future successes.”