No encounter at UEFA EURO 2008 could match this one for drama. Watch the game IN FULL on UEFA.tv, after getting some background.
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Fatih Terim’s Turkey seemed to have come unstuck at the Stade de Genève in their final UEFA EURO 2008 Group A game, trailing 2-0. However, Karel Brückner’s Czech side buckled at the last – Turkey going through despite a dramatic late red card.
Heading into their final group game, Turkey and the Czech Republic were dead level: both had lost to Portugal and beaten co-hosts Switzerland, and had identical scoring records (F2 A3). The winner on the night in Geneva was guaranteed a place in the quarter-finals along with section winners Portugal. For a while, it looked like only one team was going to take that honour.
• Nihat Kahveci: Based in Spain for the best seasons of his career, the forward came to the finals fresh from finishing second in the Liga with Villarreal – pushing Barcelona into third. His 2007/08 haul of 24 club goals was a career best.
• Petr Čech: The Chelsea man would be voted as the UEFA Champions League’s top goalkeeper for the third time in the summer of 2008. Having captained his side in the 3-0 win in Germany that sealed the Czechs’ passage to Germany, it felt like his time.
• Tuncay Şanlı: Following his first season in England with Middlesbrough, Tuncay came to the finals in Austria and Switzerland with a significant attacking brief – though he was to shine in unexpected position in Geneva.
Turkey seemed to be finished on 62 minutes when Jaroslav Plašil turned in Libor Sionko's cross to double the Czech Republic’s lead, Jan Koller having headed them in front with a powerful first-half header. However, Arda Turan's low effort with 25 minutes to go gave Fatih Terim’s side something to fight for.
Nihat capitalised on an uncharacteristic Čech mistake to level three minutes from time, and with penalties looming, galloped clear to put Turkey ahead with a spectacular finish two minutes later. However, the drama was not over, Turkey goalkeeper Volkan Demirel’s dismissal for a shove on Koller forcing Tuncay to take over the gloves for a nerve-shredding finale.
Nihat Kahveci, Turkey forward: "We were 2-0 down and we were playing very badly indeed. But in the end, the Turkish national team once again proved that the match lasts until the 90th minute. If we managed to win playing this badly, it means that there is no opponent that we can’t beat if we play well."
Fatih Terim, Turkey coach: "It wouldn't have mattered if we'd lost 2-0 or 4-0, so we had to go for it. Even when everyone else was settling for penalties after we pulled level, I was signalling for the team to try for a third goal."
Karel Brückner, Czech Republic coach: "Football is beautiful, not cruel. Painful defeats and great victories are all part of it. Football cannot exist without them. I am happy about that, because that is the source of the emotion in this game."
Elsewhere that evening
Co-hosts Switzerland signed off from the tournament with a 2-0 defeat of an under-strength Portugal side – their first ever EURO finals win. The players showed their gratitude with a banner in honour of coach Jakob Kuhn, reading “Merci Köbi”. Kuhn had kept working with the team despite his wife being in an induced coma for much of the tournament after suffering a serious epileptic seizure.
Turkey got a taste for drama; their quarter-final against Croatia was goalless after 90 minutes and they looked to be out of contention after conceding in the 119th minute, but replied through Semih Şentürk deep into added time then won the tie on penalties. They made it 2-2 late in the semi-final against Germany, but Philipp Lahm’s 90th-minute finish ended their adventure.
Brückner stepped down as Czech Republic coach after the Turkey defeat, conceding: “It will take me a long, long time to get over this disappointment.” As it is, he swiftly took a new job as Austria coach but chose to quit and retire in March 2009, aged 69. "So many things aggravate my bad back," he said. "This week I'm going to become a normal pensioner."