EURO Classics: Croatia 1-1 Turkey (1-3 pens)

Has there been a more dramatic ending? Watch this UEFA EURO 2008 epic on UEFA.tv and judge for yourselves.

Turkey celebrate their shoot-out win
Turkey celebrate their shoot-out win

Turkey led for a grand total of six minutes at UEFA EURO 2008 but came within a whisker of the final after a succession of dramatic late comebacks – none greater than their quarter-final Lazarus act against Croatia.

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Context

Last-gasp hero Nihat Kahveci on dramatic Turkey win
Last-gasp hero Nihat Kahveci on dramatic Turkey win

Even the most desperate of soap opera writers would have baulked at some of Turkey’s improbable plotlines in Austria and Switzerland. Time and again Fatih Terim’s side looked dead and buried only for them to emerge, alive and well, from the metaphorical (and occasionally meteorological) shower. Their final group game against the Czech Republic was a case in point.

Needing to win, Turkey trailed 2-0 with 15 minutes left. Arda Turan gave them a sniff and, as jaws dropped among the watching public, the Crescent Stars rose. Two goals from Nihat Kahveci sent them through. Next up was a talented Croatia side who beat England in qualifying and whose own progress through a group containing Germany was serene: three games, three wins, no fuss.

Key players

  • Semih Şentürk For so long a second-string striker for Fenerbahçe, Semih found the form of his life in 2007/08 to become the Turkish Süper Lig's top marksman with 17 goals. His reward was a place at EURO 2008.
  • Rüştü Reçber Instantly recognisable with his piratic hair and strips of eye black, Rüştü was 35 at EURO 2008 and providing experienced back-up for Volkan Demirel, who duly picked up a two-game ban.
  • Ivan Klasnić Not many people are up and running within 15 months of undergoing two kidney transplants. Still fewer are playing football. None, before the Bremen forward had capped their recovery with a goal at a EURO.
Highlights: The best goals of EURO 2008
Highlights: The best goals of EURO 2008

What happened

Croatia were on top throughout, with Ivica Olić crashing a shot off the crossbar in regulation time, and when Klasnić headed in Luka Modrić's cross with a minute of extra time to play, Croatia looked to have booked a semi-final against Germany. However, for the third game running, Turkey sensationally hit back.

Semih drove in, with the aid of a deflection, from just inside the area to force the first shoot-out of EURO 2008. Turkey went on to win 3-1 on penalties after 35-year-old Rüştü saved Mladen Petrić's kick following earlier misses from Modrić and Ivan Rakitić.

Reaction

Great Croatia EURO goals
Great Croatia EURO goals

Fatih Terim, Turkey coach: "After Croatia scored, I saw players lying on the pitch and I told Arda to get the ball out of the goal and start again. I wasn't giving up. There is something special about this team."

Slaven Bilić, Croatia coach: "This is the third match Turkey have won in this extreme manner ... it is obvious that they have quality and the X factor which you need. The game had an incredible ending, the kind you can only find in football."

Kazım Kazım, Turkey winger: "We have enough morale and psychological strength to overcome this situation. In my opinion, Turkey's best weapon is belief."

Aftermath

EURO 2008 semi-final highlights: Germany 3-2 Turkey
EURO 2008 semi-final highlights: Germany 3-2 Turkey

Turkey actually took the lead against Germany in the last four though found themselves in the all-too-familiar position of trailing heading into the last five minutes. Semih equalised but this time they were beaten at their own game, Philipp Lahm scoring a 90th-minute winner. Spain proved too strong for the Germans in the final.

Croatia endured a period of finals disappointment but a 'second golden generation', featuring EURO 2008 veterans Modrić and Rakitić, finished runners-up at 2018 FIFA World Cup.

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