Two late Nihat Kahveci strikes booked ten-man Turkey a place in the UEFA EURO 2008 quarter-finals in an exhilarating climax to their Group A match against Czech Republic in Geneva.
Jan Koller gave the Czechs a 34th-minute advantage with a thumping header and Jaroslav Plašil turned in Libor Sionko's cross to double the lead two minutes past the hour. Turkey gave themselves a fighting chance thanks to Arda Turan's low effort before Nihat capitalised on a Petr Čech mistake to level three minutes from time.
With spot kicks looming, Nihat galloped clear to send Turkey through with a spectacular finish, although there was still time for Volkan Demirel to be sent off for shoving Koller. Tuncay Şanlı took the gloves as Fatih Terim's men set up a quarter-final against Croatia.
The teams kicked off with identical records and a draw would have necessitated a penalty shoot-out to decide who took second place behind Portugal – an outcome both coaches were anxious to avoid. Karel Brückner started with Koller up front, and his height ensured the Czechs had the better of the opening period, with Tomáš Ujfaluši launching long passes forward for him to knock down to Libor Sonko and Plašil. Such direct tactics nearly paid dividends as Sionko headed Marek Jankulovski's free-kick wide.
Koller was causing havoc every time the Czech Republic pushed forward, steering one header narrowly over before finding Marek Matějovský for an attempt that was well dealt with by Volkan. Turkey were struggling to get into the game but finally registered their first effort on goal when a Tuncay strike fizzed wide of Čech's upright, although it was the Czechs who continued to look the more likely to make the crucial breakthrough.
That opening goal eventually arrived in the 34th minute from a predictable source as Zdeněk Grygera escaped down the right to deliver a perfect cross for Koller to nod his 55th international goal beyond the despairing dive of Volkan and give his side a richly-deserved lead. If their first-half travails were not worrying enough for Turkey, they also had the knowledge that the Czechs had never lost a competitive match in which Koller had scored.
That statistic seemed ever more relevant in the 62nd minute when Plašil met another fine centre, this time from Sionko, with a sliding first-time volley that Volkan could not keep out. Despite the increased deficit there had been hope for Turkey, with Nihat and Tuncay going close after the restart as Terim's team finally began to find their feet on a slippery surface.
In the countries' previous meeting, Turkey had scored twice in the closing two minutes to earn a draw but such a scenario appeared a long way off as the Czechs threatened again as Jan Polák rattled the upright. Suddenly, however, Turkey revived as Hamit Altıntop cut in from the right for a cross that found Arda – the hero against Switzerland – at the far post to halve the deficit.
The Czechs still looked like holding on, until an uncharacteristic error from Čech shattered their chances. The No1 dropped another Altıntop centre at the feet of Nihat, who duly prodded in. Two minutes later Altıntop's pass sent Nihat through and the Turkey captain clipped the ball in off the underside of the crossbar under extreme pressure to take his side through. They will play Group B winners Croatia in Vienna on Friday, when Mehmet Aurélio will be suspended along with Volkan.