Turkey's great escape
Ten-man Turkey made the greatest of escapes to book their UEFA EURO 2008 quarter-final berth as they came from 2-0 down to stun the Czech Republic 3-2 here on Sunday and take their place in the quarter-finals.
The Turks had looked dead and buried on 62 minutes after a first-half header from giant Czech striker Jan Koller and a second-half strike by winger Jaroslav Plasil looked to have made the result safe for the EURO 2004 semi-finalists. But three goals in the last 15 minutes - including two by captain Nihat Kahveci in the 87th and 89th minutes - put them in the quarter-finals.
There was no need for the anticipated historic penalty shoot-out after Turkey's late showing when Arda Turan hit a superb strike past Petr Cech to give his side hope with 15 minutes left.
And Villareal's Kahveci struck twice -- the first coming from an unbelievable howler by the normally sound Cech -- to put his side into the last eight and set up a quarter-final clash against Group B winners Croatia in Vienna on Friday.
A penalty shoot-out had been a pre-match option as both teams had come to the Stade de Geneve with identical Group A records from their two previous games. But in the end Turkey join Portugal in the quarter-finals, while the Czechs pack their bags.
Czech coach Karel Bruckner -- who now steps down after a seven year reign -- had opted for Nuremberg's towering Koller as the lone striker up front in place of out-of-form ex-Liverpool forward Milan Baros, who was to show how far he had fallen since being top scorer at the championships four years ago by being booked even though he never got on the pitch.
The Turks' attacking spirit
Bruckner's opposite number Fatih Terim opted to play Fenerbahce's Semih Senturk alongside hero Kahveci up front in a traditional 4-4-2 formation, unlike the 4-3-3 he used against the Swiss. With so much at stake, the Turks made an aggressive start with Brazilian-born Mehmet Aurelio picking up a second yellow card of the tournament joining fellow midfielder Mehmet Topal in the referee's book.
After sustained Czech pressure, the decision to play Koller paid off on 34 minutes when he scored his 55th goal in his 90th, and what was to turn out to be his last, appearance for his country. Juventus defender Zdenek Grygera whipped in a cross and Koller rose highest and although Demirel palmed the ball onto the underpart of the cross bar, it flipped into the net.
It was no more than the Czechs deserved and Bruckner must have wondered why his side were not more than 1-0 up at the half-time break.
As the rain poured at the start of the second-half, so Turkey stepped up their attack with Kahveci twice going close, but Cech was solid in the Czech goal.
The Czech Republic looked to have sealed the match when they took a 2-0 lead as Plasil hit a bullet strike as he used the wet turf brilliantly to slide onto Libor Sionko's cross on 62 minutes which gave Demirel no chance.
But Turkey showed fighting spirit and deserved to pull a goal back after laying siege to the Czech goal as winger Halil Altintop slid in a cross and Turan rifled his shot home.
And a mistake by Cech put Turkey back in the tie when skipper Kahveci pounced on the Chelsea goalkeeper's mistake with just three minutes left. And his winner right at the death put Turkish fans in seventh heaven and left many a Czech supporter with their head in their hands.