The qualification story of the Turkish during the 1980s had been one of grand failure and chopping of managers. Their 1984 European Championships qualification apart, they had not won a single qualifier from 24, and coming into the race for Italia ’90, Tınaz Tırpan was their tenth manager of the decade. Another very noticeable fact about Turkey throughout the 80s was the utter lack of consistency in their line-ups. Quite often would one or more players be making their debuts for a qualifying match, and it was almost a rarity for any player to be in double appearance figures.

For the ’84 European Championships, they had won three of their eight matches under manager Coşkun Özarı, who was in his second stint as coach at national team level. They had beaten Albania, Northern Ireland and Austria all at home, as well as drawn away to the Albanians, their only point from 15 away fixtures since the start of the decade. In the previous qualification, they had been humiliated by the English for a second time in three years, losing 8-0 on both occasions, the first of these even on home soil in Istanbul. It was clear that Tınaz had a huge task on his hands.

The manager had arrived from Ankara club Gençlerbirliği early in the calendar year of 1988. It was difficult to say exactly why the Turkish FA felt they had found their man in Tınaz, as Gençlerbirliği had hardly set the domestic scene alight under his tutelage, and he had even been at Kayserispor during their relegation season 1985/86. His predecessor had been Mustafa Denizli, who had lasted a mere four matches at the end of the 1988 European Championships qualification. Could Tınaz Tırpan see to that peace and order was restored within the national team camp? With him as his assistant was Behzat Çınar, who was a remnant from the previous regime.

The Turkish club scene had seen four different clubs, three of them from the country’s biggest city Istanbul, win the Super League during the 80s: Trabzonspor, Beşiktaş, Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray. Only the latter had managed to defend their title, as they had won twice in succession (’86 and ’87), leading up to their excellent European Cup campaign in 88/89, where they made it all the way to the semi-finals before bowing out to eventual losing finalists Steaua București. Galatasaray manager had been Mustafa Denizli, the national team boss preceding Tınaz.

Was there a sense of optimism in the Turkey air ahead of the ’90 qualification? Possibly. In their only friendly ahead of the campaign, they had won 3-1 at home against near neighbours Greece. Among the scorers had been striker Tanju Çolak, the player who three times in a row had won the domestic golden boot, twice with Samsunspor, before he had been transfered to Galatasaray ahead of the 1987/88 season. Tanju would surely prove to be among the key players in Tınaz’ squad, where most players, unsurprisingly, would come from the three leading Istanbul clubs. Could there this time be expected less player changes from one match to another?