Turkey produced miracle #3 of the Euro 2008 tournament by beating Croatia in the quarter finals in the most unlikeliest of circumstances. After regulation, the match was 0-0. Some might ask how a 0-0 game can be exciting. Well, sometimes, it just needs to have high stakes, a bit of woodwork, luck and the definitive need for a victor. The Turks had 56% of the possession and yet also had 4 bookings to 0 for Croatia. Meanwhile, the Croats had 15 (7 on target) total shots to 10 (4 on goal) for the Turks.
Then came the magic of overtime. Unlike ice hockey, it is not sudden death in football. There are two extra halves of 15 minutes. Twenty-nine minutes into OT, that is to say 1 minute before the end of extra time, Ivan Krasnic of Croatia scores with the head, 1-0. Jubilation. The Croatian players could taste the semi’s. After all, after 119 minutes of scoreless football, another score would be utterly improbable. At 120 minutes, the sidelines announce 2 minutes added on for injury time. With the clock ticking down at 121’50” the Turks rifle a long distance free kick that lands more-or-less on the foot of Senturk who pummels the ball with his left foot into the top left hand corner of the goal. The final whistle blows as soon as the ball soared into the back of the net. A scorcher, beautiful under any circumstances. Unfathomable in this moment.
The deflated Croats miss three of the next four penalty spots, two absolute misses and one saved by the Turkish Captain (and substitute) goalkeeper, Rüştü Reçber. The Turks ruthlessly knock in their spot kicks, including a Senturk right-footed execution.
So, in a veritable three-peat, Turkey is through, and Croatia, the former giant killer, is out. The Turks pulled off a last gasp win against Switzerland, 2-1, scoring in the 92nd minute to avoid a draw. And then they made a sensational come-from-2-0-behind victory over the Czechs (down 2 goals with 15 minutes left). They scored three goals in the last 15 minutes to qualify for the quarters. For added drama, their goalie is ejected in the very last moments of the game.
Having visited Turkey and understood the intensity of the rivalry between the Istanbul football teams, I know the utter passion for football in Turkey (there is nothing more torrid than an encounter between Fenerbahçe v Galatasaray).
Not three, without four? Can the heavily yellow-carded Turks overcome the stalwart Germans in their first ever Euro semi-final? Clearly, the Turk coach, Fatih Terim, will have a difficult choice to make in goal.