Euro 2008: Turkey 3 Czech Republic 2
June 15th, 2008
Turkey started their Euro 2008 campaign with a tame enough defeat by Portugal and when they found themselves losing to the Swiss after almost an hour of game two, it was easy enough to believe that they were heading for a collective early bath. Instead, an equaliser from Semih Senturk and injury-time winner by Arda Turan sent them into a winner-takes-all clash with the Czech Republic; a match that turned out to be about the best of the tournament.
The Czechs started well enough, taking the lead through a Jan Koller header then doubling it through Jaroslav Plasil, although they passed up a handful of chances to make the game safe. Plasil's goal angered the Turks, who had been trying to replace an injured defender when it was scored and even after Turan made it 2-1, it seemed they would most likely be heading home with a hard luck story to tell.
Then, with a couple of minutes to play, Petr Cech dropped a harmless enough looking Hamit Altintop cross and Nihat was left with a simple tap in. Suddenly, the prospect of penalties loomed as the two teams would be inseparable in second place by any other means. But Nihat gave the Turks the upperhand in glorious fashion with a curling long range effort that clattered the underside of the crossbar on the way in, giving Cech absolutely no chance to make amends for his earlier error.
The Turks were suddenly in the driving seat although they handed their opponents a glimmer of hope when goalkeeper Volkan Demirel was sent off for a needless push on Koller and midfielder Tuncay Sanli had to take over in goal. They held on, though, prompting celebratory wild celebrations on the pitch, amongst their fans and in a large portion of the press box.
They weren’t done either. Fatih Terim’s side beat Croatia on penalties in the quarters before running the Germans very close indeed in the tournament’s semi-finals.