Euro 2008 – Comeback kings Turkey do it again
Turkey beat Croatia on penalties after a heart-stopping 1-1 extra-time draw in their Euro 2008 quarter final in Vienna.
But, right on the whistle, Semih Senturk hammered the ball into the roof of the net from just inside the area after a speculative punt downfield from Rustu.
And the veteran Besiktas goalkeeper – only in the team because Volkan Demirel was suspended – turned from zero to hero when he pulled off a wonderful save from Mladen Petric’s penalty to send his side into a tantalising semi final against Germany.
Turkey scored all three of their spot-kicks – Arda Turan, Semih and Hamit Altintop on target – while only Darijo Srna scored his for the Croats, with man-of-the-match Luka Modric and the 20-year-old Ivan Rakitic sending theirs wide.
It was an incredible finish to a tense, tactical affair that was dominated by Croatia in normal time but saw Turkey have the better of extra-time.
A tetchy start burst into life on five minutes, when Hamit fired a low drive just wide.
Sabri Sarioglu – who looked uncomfortable playing at right-back – then gave the ball away to Modric, who found Srna who was unable to shoot before Turkey’s defence got back to block.
Turkey continued to keep a fair amount of possession but looked unable to create clear-cut opportunities, and most of their half-chances came from distance.
Mehmet Topal sent a superb rising drive just wide of the woodwork with Stipe Pletikosa nowhere near it, while Middlesbrough forward Tuncay Sanli had a decent shout for an indirect free-kick in the penalty area after he was obstructed by Josip Simunic.
But it was Croatia who created most of the excitement. Modric looked every penny of the £16.5 million Tottenham forked out for his services, causing havoc in the Turkey defence with his clever running and deft passing.
The diminutive playmaker made one superb chance for Ivica Olic when he cut the ball across the face of the six-yard box on 18 minutes, but the lone Croatia striker somehow hammered his finish off the underside of the bar with the goal at his mercy.
But the sides were level at the break, despite Slaven Bilic’s men having the edge.
Croatia came out for the second half with all guns blazing, while Turkey seemed to have left their ability to defend in the dressing room.
Turkey were giving the ball away as Croatia and Modric in particular threatened to carve them apart.
But the Croats – dressed in the blue second strip that served them so well at Euro ’96 and France ’98 – were unable to make their possession and chances tell, with Kranjcar in particular guilty of a glaring miss when he fired straight at Rustu from close-range after Modric again slid him through.
Rakitic was responsible for the miss of the half though, when just after 70 minutes he fired wildly over from a one-on-one position after a clever one-two with Olic.
It highlighted Croatia’s one positional problem – the lack of a natural goalscorer – although the game Olic went close with a header from a difficult position soon afterwards.
Turkey’s inability to hold onto the ball in their crowded midfield – or for the longer balls to stick to lone striker Nihat Kahveci – led coach Fatih Terim to bring on Semih for Mehmet and switch to a more conventional 4-4-2.
They immediately looked more comfortable, and played the ball around in midfield with confidence as successive half-chances were created but intercepted by Pletikosa.
Turkey still struggled to create chances though, while Croatia almost snatched winners through a Srna free-kick that Rustu saved well and a weak Olic finish in the 90th minute after Modric found him at the near post.
A late, late twist was avoided when Olic hammered a loose ball over from a great position in the final seconds of injury-time.
The first period of extra-time in these championships followed, and the inability for Croatia to hit the target led Bilic to bring Ivan Klasnic on for the wasteful Olic.
But Turkey, with their more familiar formation and renowned stamina, started to get a grip on the match.
Semih had two good efforts, one shot that flew just over and another half-chance when Croatia failed to clear a long ball, the substitute denied by Robert Kovac getting his body in the way.
Tuncay then sent a low drive from the edge of the box just wide of the left-hand post as Croatians legs tired in the sweltering humidity.
But nothing could prepare anyone for the finish. With the clock ticking down to penalties, a quick Croatia break seemed to have been halted by the Turks tracking back but Rustu inexplicably rushed to the edge of his area with Modric finding the ball on the right.
The ex-Fenerbahce and Barcelona man realised his folly and ran back to his goal, but it was too late, and Modric’s centre found Klasnic – only recently recovered from a kidney transplant – who nodded the ball past the flailing Rustu.
And there was more to follow, with Bilic furious that he had not been able to bring on sub Jarko Leko and that Semih’s leveller was scored four seconds after the allocated one minute of stoppage time had passed.
The shoot-out heart-break saw Bilic comforting his inconsolable charges – with Srna in particular weeping uncontrollably – while Turkey, the rank outsiders ahead of co-hosts Austria and Switzerland – progressed to an unlikely semi final.