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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Euro2008 catch-up: Swiss win send-off for Kuhn; Turkey amazing come-back for QF

Being the last game for all groups, kick-offs are simultaneous and at the later time of 20.45hrs Swiss time, 19.45hrs BST. That said, we were served with a choice rather than one match after the other and I chose Turkey v Czech Republic, seeing as Portugal were through and mostly changed and Switzerland were out and playing for the last time under coach Kobi Kuhn. Portugal fielded eight changes to include Ricardo Quaresma and Nani starting, Fernando Meira as skipper and Raul Meireles who scored their 2nd goal against Turkey as a sub. But fortune seemed to favour Switzerland despite the Portuguese holding more possession and chances.

Having remained goalless at half-time, the co-hosts snatched the lead with 20mins remaining. Eren Derdiyok's little touch found Hakan Yakin and he slotted under Ricardo. A penalty decision later, Fernando Meira upending sub Tranquillo Barnetta, who needed little persuading to make it look worse, Yakin scored his third of the tournament. A nice ending to a campaign that showed much promise but filtered out with a consolating win to end Kuhn's reign.

Now, from the worst game so far in Romania v France to what has been arguably the game of the tournament. Identical to Group D's current status between Sweden and Russia, the Turks and the Czechs were level on 3pts and a loss. Winner would take all and the stakes were very high. The Czechs crashed to Portugal after leading away from the Swiss while the Turks responded superbly after their opening Portugal defeat with a last-grasp strike against the Swiss. Jans Koller started in place of Milan Baros, so Karel Buckner still refrained from 4-4-2, and the Aberdeen striker showed good stride in his selection. Servet Cetin was taking the fight to the big man but couldn’t stop him nodding a header past Volkan Demirel from Zdenek Grygera's right side cross.

Turkey had little to no service down the flanks and from central midfield and I found Mehmet Aurelio disappointing in his delivering and service particularly. But after the break, the Turks aimed to hit back and through Servet and Tuncay Sanli they missed excellent chances to score. Koller was himself put through on goal and his lack of space seemed to hinder him as eventually his effort went wide. But then past the hour mark Turkey had to deal with Emre Gungor, who injured himself and had to be stretchered off, leaving Turkey with ten-men and minus a defender. At the time the Czech were on the attack and coach Fatih Terim urged to make his replacement of Emre Asik before anything bad happened, but it was too late. Liber Sionk crossed from the right for Jaroslav Plasil to side in and touch the ball just passed Volkan, who has been in good form in the tournament.

Terim and other Turkey personnel were furious with the 4th official, who as nudged and gestured to. Jan Polak hit the post as the Czech were relentless in driving home the nail in the Turkey coffin. But 15mins of fame were about to erupt again in Europe, again with three goals. Liverpool endured it in the Champions League 2005 after the second half started. In the Stade de Geneve, they began after the 75min. First, impressive Hamit Altintop played a one-two with Sabri Sarıoglu, cut back across the box to Arda Turan, who scored the winner against Switzerland, the Galatasaray winger slotting a shot off the right hand of Petr Cech into the corner.

Then, a comical error for "the best goalkeeper in the world", said ITV's Jon Champion. Turkey played with the ball down the right until a cross came over, Cech came to catch a simple unchallenged ball but dropped it, Nihat Kehvaci on hand to touch in the loose ball. Turkey were level in 12mins when they looked out from the first 75mins. Then to break all Czech hearts, a sweet ball again played through by Altintop found Nihat, the equally impressive Villarreal man through on goal, on-side, and from the edge of the box he curled a sweet ball up and around Cech, touching off the crossbar on its way in.

The one sour note was between Koller and Volkan, two big players, with Koller deliberately coming in on Volkan. Volkan ensured the danger was cleared then confronted Koller, shoving him on the chest. Koller went down and rolled over like a brand new carpet, embarassingly for a strapping 6' 7" person, which produced a straight red for the Turkey keeper. Again, a harsh red but UEFA are cracking down and Volkan just needed to maintain composure for a little while more and he would have had the last laugh.

Nonetheless, unbelievable comeback. I mentioned Liverpool in the 2005 Champions League final, I must mention Man City who came back from 3-0 down, Joey Barton sent off at half time, to beat Spurs at White Hart Lane 3-4 in the FA Cup tie of early 2004. That comeback was 42mins in the making of the second half. But Turkey looked quite out of qualification come Plasil's goal, only to come through with the kind of tenacity and spirit they showed against the Swiss.



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