The prospect of a group stage shoot-out between Turkey and the Czech Republic was exciting enough but what actually unfolded was yet more exhilarating.
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Things were exciting enough when Arda Turan pulled a goal back not long after the Czech Republic had doubled the lead. Then, when Nihat Kahveci took advantage of a real rarity, a Petr Čech fumble, in the 87th minute, penalties were somehow back on and in circumstances of heightened excitement. Except that Nihat struck again to make it 3-2 with one minute of normal time remaining, for Turkey's second consecutive late winner. Yet even that was not the end of it, as Turkey goalkeeper Volkan Demirel was dismissed for a push on Jan Koller when the ball was out of play – that last detail meaning makeshift replacement Tuncay Şanlı did not have to face an immediate spot-kick and then perhaps several more.
It all seemed a long time since half-time, when a Turkey victory looked an outside bet. The Czech Republic players were in no mood to put their perfect penalty shoot-out record on the line, judging by their blistering start. The height of Koller and the foraging four-man support of Libor Sionko, Jan Polák, Marek Matějovský and Jaroslav Plašil proved a real handful for a Turkey defence missing the tall Gökhan Zan, not to mention the experience of Emre Belözoğlu in midfield. At this stage, there was no question of Volkan being able to save himself for penalties with Koller, Matějovský and Sionko shooting and crossing from all angles.
Therefore it was no surprise when Koller rose high to head in Zdeněk Grygera's cross on 34 minutes for his 55th and, though he did not know it at the time, final international goal – he had said he would retire after the finals. Not long afterwards Matějovský was taken off with an injury, but David Jarolím proved an able understudy. Koller remained a constant threat, no doubt having been champing at the bit after spending most of Wednesday's loss here against Portugal on the bench.
Penalties at that point would have been a more than acceptable outcome for Turkey. The supersub against Switzerland, Semih Şentürk, had started but, in an intriguing move, the striker was replaced at the break by Sabri Sarıoğlu, not usually an attacking player. However, although the rain began to pelt down – the harbinger of Turkey's difficult first-half spell against Switzerland – it was clear Fatih Terim's switch was just as canny as the one four days earlier in Basel, Sabri proving a tricky right-sided winger.
As time flew by, a shoot-out appeared a possibility, then became a seeming improbability when the sliding Plašil turned in Sionko's cross. Freed from spot-kick concerns, the Czech Republic fans launched a Mexican wave which would be rudely halted by Arda's strike. A quarter-hour later and it was the Turkey supporters celebrating. Expect emotions? No one could have predicted this.