There was gloom, anguish and despondency etched on the faces of the Turkey players after an unforgettable match in Basel last night. Even though the men from the Bosporus had been the better team, responding to coach Fatih Terim's touchline exhortations with a fluid and exuberant display, they still lost their UEFA EURO 2008 semi-final 3-2 to three-time continental champions Germany.

In an ironic twist of fate, the Turks received a bitter taste of their own medicine. After breathtaking last-gasp comebacks in the group phase against the Czech Republic and at the quarter-final stage against Croatia, the Turks themselves were obliged to swallow the bitter pill of a late winning goal on Wednesday evening. Philipp Lahm, a main culprit in handing the Turks an equaliser just a few minutes earlier, bore down unchallenged on keeper Recber Rustu in the 90th minute before blasting home, simultaneously striking a blow to the hearts of the colourful and boisterous Turkish fans, many of whom were reduced to tears afterwards.

Terim: World has seen our ability
It was a cruel end to the tournament for Terim and his troops, although once the tears have dried, they will acknowledge they have much to be proud of. After finishing third at the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan™, the current generation has offered compelling evidence that a sleeping giant of the world game is waking from its slumbers.

"I'm very proud of my players, they were utterly determined to win. The world has seen what we're capable of," a visibly moved Terim said in the aftermath of the incident-packed clash at St. Jakob-Park. The 54-year-old seemed caught between disappointment at the result and the satisfaction of having masterminded his team's stirring run at the tournament in Austria and Switzerland.

"What matters most is that I have a team out on the field which enjoys its football and succeeds in captivating the masses. We haven't always played good football at this tournament, but today's display atones for everything. There's a lot more good football to come from Turkey in the future."

Looking ahead to South Africa

Few will doubt the veracity of the coach's statement about a team boasting the attacking potency of Hamit Altintop, Emre Belozoglu and Nihat Kahveci. Bayern Munich midfielder Altintop has finally emerged as a player of true international class at EURO 2008, although injury prevented Emre and Nihat from playing any active part in the decisive moments of their country's campaign. However, with the dynamic trio on peak form, Turkey need have few qualms about qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa.

Terim also cast a cautious glance at the future on Wednesday night: "Everyone can see we know how to play good football, that's the most important thing. Like in so many countries, football is enormously important in Turkey. Seventy million hearts were supporting us today. Taking part in this tournament was important for the future too. The vital thing is consistency, so we need to keep on qualifying for major tournaments. I think we'll make ourselves heard at future tournaments."

Colourful and dynamic
The star of the Turkish coaching scene, who has acquired legendary status in his home country over the last three weeks, felt his side had emotional appeal too: "We exit the tournament now as one of the most colourful teams around." As no-one felt inclined to dispute this fact, the Turks will certainly feel their most recent performances have succeeded in making the footballing world sit up and take notice.

For that and many other reasons, Terim and Co exit the EURO stage in some style. "That's football - sometimes you come up against opponents who are better than you. Congratulations to Germany, and all the best to them for the final. Germany are a very strong team with outstanding individuals, but we made it difficult for them to get going. Unfortunately, we keep letting in silly goals."

Dawn of a new era
Terim has indicated that the EURO 2008 semi-final defeat may have been his last match in charge of the national team.

"I'll sit down and talk to the officials and players, and then I'll analyse the situation. We have to talk about a few things internally, and then there'll be a decision. I'll definitely reappear somewhere in Europe at some future time," commented the coach, who must take most of the credit for restoring his nation to the top table of the global football scene.

An exciting future lies ahead for Turkey and its footballers, with plenty to suggest that tear-stained faces in the Turkish crowd will be a rare sight indeed in years to come.