Turkey are definitely the “Cinderellas” of Euro 2008. Guess how many minutes they’ve lead in this tournament? A total of 4 minutes in 4 games, one of them they lost 2-0. Yet, they are in the semi-finals of the European Championships for the first time ever.
They needed to beat the co-hosts Switzerland to stay alive in the group stage, and after falling 1-0 at the half, they got an equalizer in the 57th minute on a header by Semih Senturk. Just when they were destined for a draw, Arda Turan’s deflected shot hit the back of the net, and in stoppage time, Switzerland were out, and Turkey’s final match against the Czech Republic would still have meaning.
Their 2nd comeback was considered one of the greatest in Euro history. The winner of Czech Republic/Turkey would advance to the quarterfinals, and a draw in the match would’ve meant penalties because all of the tiebreakers had run out. Jan Koller headed the ball home in what would be his final goal in international competition, and Jaroslav Plasil made it 2-0 in the 62nd minute. Looks like it’s game over right? Arda Turan scores in the 75th minute and it looks like Turkey have a chance at penalties. They were pressuring and pressuring and Petr Cech, considered the best goalkeeper in the world, in the rain, made the fatal mistake of failing to catch a simple cross, and Nihat took advantage of an empty net, 2-2 in the 87th minute.
Penalties seemed to be the destiny for these two sides, which was a shame, because it was a classic match. Nihat though was onside in the 89th minute, a wonderful pass found his feet, and he lofted it past Cech for the winner, 3-2, and Turkey pull off a miracle. However, Turkish goalkeeper Volkan Demirel was sent off for stupidly shoving Koller in the back near the end of the game. He will not play again until the final should they advance.
Next came Croatia, the team that won all of their group games, including a stunning upset of Germany. The game had to go to extra time after a stale 90 minutes, and with 3 minutes to go, there was no sign that there would be a goal in this game. In the 119th minute, the Turkish goalkeeper, Rustu, made a poor decision by following the ball near the touchline (his near post), he could not get to it, and the 2nd cross found Ivan Klasnic for the winner….so they thought.
Just 1 minute (minimum) of stoppage time, Rustu needed to kick the ball as far as possible and hope for a miracle from his teammates. It would be the last kick of the game, and another Turkish miracle.
Turkey won 3-1 on penalties, stunning the Croatia players, fans, and a whole nation. They will face Germany in the semi-final on Wednesday, and with 8 players out with either yellow card accumulation or injury (including Nihat), they are still heavy underdogs, but with the way they are playing, and their magical run, don’t be surprised if they pull off one more shocker in their march to Vienna for the final.