Once again, the Turkish national football team manages to rise from the ashes, as it recovers after an extra-time goal by Croatia, and books a EURO 2008 semifinal date against Germany. The tournament's comeback kings feel the sky is the limit now
VIENNA – Turkish Daily News
When Turkey goalkeeper Rüştü Reçber saved Mladen Petric’s penalty kick in the shootout in the EURO 2008 quarterfinal game against Croatia Friday night, he did not only help Turkey advance to the semifinals but opened a full new chapter in football history.
The Turks’ run to the quarterfinal had been miraculous, but their performance Friday was somewhat beyond the imaginable. Turkish supporters in the stands of Vienna’s Ernst Happel Stadium were shocked into silence when Croatia’s Ivan Klasnic put his side ahead one minute from the end of extra time. But there was still time for comeback king Turkey, which twice rallied from behind to win in the group stages, to equalize in breathtaking style as Semih Şentürk scored with the last kick of the game, cementing the country’s place as EURO 2008’s late show specialists.
The penalty shootout was a nightmare for the Croatians with Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic missing the target before Turkey's victory was clinched when Rüştü, who arguably was to blame for the goal conceded, made the save.
Turkey’s Arda Turan, Semih and Hamit Altıntop were all successful with their spot kicks.
That was the third comeback by Turkey in the tournament, after beating Switzerland 2-1 with a stoppage-time goal by Turan. The Czech Republic game was won in only more dramatic fashion as the clash staged another miracle-like ending 3-2 with three goals from Turkey in the last 15 minutes.
“Turkey is in the semifinals of Euro 2008 despite being in the lead for only two minutes of this entire tournament,” said the football365.com Web site.
The game’s hero, Semih, who has a reputation for scoring goals after being brought on as a substitute said they feel the touch of destiny is on their side.
“We are a good team, and we never give up,” he said. “And God smiles on our faces, thankfully.”
Coach Fatih Terim dedicated the win to the Turkish people.
“This is our present to all Turkish people,” Terim said after the game. “To see them happy, smiling is worth everything.”
Hamit said the team was definitely on the right track. "We again showed that we're a team that's certainly not yet mature but on the right track," said Hamit. "It's the third time we've made a comeback. If we carry on like this, everything is possible."
Croatian coach Slovan Bilic said Turkey could reach the final.
“This is the third game Turkey has won in extreme fashion,” he told a post-game press conference. “If Turks continue not to give up until the referee blows the final whistle, even reaching the final is possible for them.”
“It is not only quality Turkey has, but something else too,” he added. “And that something else, you need that in football.”
Turkish defender Gökhan Zan agreed with the Croat, and showed that the team was looking to the future.
“We have been doing well, but what counts is consistency,” he said. However, the future of the campaign may be plagued by injuries and suspensions.
Turkey will now play Germany in the semifinal Wednesday, which will be Turkey’s first Euro Cup semifinal in history. However Terim, who has already been struggling to form a starting 11, will have an even harder time against Germany after losing Turan, Tuncay Şanlı and Emre Aşık to yellow card suspensions Friday night. The injury to talisman Nihat Kahveci, who had to be taken off in the dying minutes, may be a bigger blow.
But with the performances they have displayed in this tournament, the sky is the limit for the Turks.
“We will now have a rest and then start preparations for the game against Germany,” said Altıntop, who will play some of his teammates from Bayern, including Lukas Podolski and Bastian Schweinsteiger on Wednesday. “If we prepare well, if we believe in our coach and play as he says, there is no team we should be afraid of.”
As confident as ever, Terim is aware that he is driving the team to something special.
“Our country has a lot more to achieve in all fields. We will play against a giant like Germany, so this means it is time for the battle of the giants,” Terim said.
Turkish supporters took to the streets of Vienna right after the game, cheering and celebrating the amazing victory. Austrian police was expecting a long, sleepless night with the weather warm and dry and 200,000 fans in Vienna for the game.
"Whoever wins we will have a long night, and I am sure victorious fans will want to party in the city after the game," Christian Stella, a spokesman for Vienna police, had said earlier.
After the Czech Republic game several injuries resulted due to Turks’ unpleasant habit of celebrating by firing guns.
Terim and Turkish Football Federation Chairman Hasan Doğan tried to avoid more casualties, warning people not to take their expression of delight to an unacceptable level.
“We have many nicer ways to celebrate,” said Terim when speaking to Turkish broadcaster atv. “One’s happiness should not lead to another’s sorrow. No victory is worth a person's life”
Doğan agreed with the Turkish team boss.
“We have folk dances, or many things in our culture to express happiness,” he explained. “Please, do not fire guns to celebrate this victory.”