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Nihat the miracle-maker

Turkey's hero against the Czech Republic, striker Nihat Kahveci warns quarter-final rivals Croatia that Fatim Terim's team see a semi-final place as a realistic goal.

Nihat Kahveci had a dream night on Sunday
Nihat Kahveci had a dream night on Sunday ©Getty Images

After putting two goals past Petr Čech in the last four minutes of their final group game to lead Turkey to the UEFA EURO 2008™ quarter-finals, Nihat Kahveci is understandably on something of a high at the moment. Little wonder he can look ahead with confidence to Friday's showdown with Croatia and declare: "If we qualify for the semi-finals, it might seem like a miracle for the rest of the world, but not for us."

National dream
Even now, though, the 28-year-old Villarreal CF striker admits it is hard to take in what happened in the match against the Czech Republic in Geneva on Sunday. "It is very difficult to sum up this happiness with only one sentence," Nihat, skippering Turkey due to Emre Belözoğlu's absence through injury, told euro2008.com. "After we went 2-0 down, nobody was expecting such a victory from us. But after our first goal, we saw that they were worried. After the goal, we talked to each other and said: 'Let's give it everything. If we lose, it's not a problem, but we should give our best.' I cannot express my feelings when I first saw the ball in the net. I think that moment was a crucial moment for the whole country. I can say that those two goals were the best two goals that I have ever scored."

Comeback kings
It was the second time in as many games that Turkey had come from behind to secure a last-gasp win at these finals, after the 2-1 defeat of Switzerland. But Nihat longs for a more comfortable victory, saying: "I prefer scoring the first goal. We are the only team that concedes the first goal and then goes on to win. We feel very happy about that and can worry our opponents with this weapon. But, to repeat, I prefer scoring the first goal. I think we proved to everybody that the game is 90 minutes long and the Turkish national team doesn't give up before the final whistle."

Croatia encounter
Turkey have now moved from their first-round base in Nyon in western Switzerland to Krems in north-western Austria, as they prepare to take on Croatia in Vienna. "We respect Croatia," Nihat said, looking ahead to the quarter-final against Slaven Bilić's side. "They were in a tough group and collected nine points from three games. But we are in the last eight and we have enough self-confidence. We have only 90 minutes. After 90 minutes, you can play in the semi-finals and then maybe the final. Of course, mistakes will be punished at this stage. In football, little details decide matches. I hope on Friday these small details will be with us."