Saturday, June 21, 2008

Euro 2008: Quarter-final 2

Turkey 1-1 Croatia (3-1 on penalties)
Well, that was one hell of a game. It was relatively uneventful for almost two hours, before a stunning conclusion that saw two goals in the last two minutes of stoppage time, before Turkey beat Croatia on penalties. The fact that it was scoreless through regular time was surprising enough, if you'd seen these two teams play earlier, but Turkey were set up to stifle the Croatian playmakers through midfield, and they did their job pretty effectively.

Croatia's best chance of the game came in the 18th minute, as Luka Modric crossed the ball for Ivica Olic, who hit the crossbar from about two yards out -- followed by Niko Kranjcar heading the rebound wide with the goalmouth open. Croatia were undoubtedly missing Eduardo; although Olic ran himself into the ground, he doesn't have the same killer instinct in front of goal. He had another couple of chances in the second half, but the only time he put the ball in the net, he was flagged offside.

Turkey, on the other hand, had very few shots on goal, although they worked themselves into the game more as time went on -- and they certainly picked the right time to peak in extra time. They needed a great save from Rustu Recber to get them that far, though, with a flying stop in the 84th minute on a shot from Dario Srna that was curling into the top corner.

The game was balanced on a knife-edge through extra time, and looked to be going to penalties, before Croatia struck with about a minute left. The ball was crossed from the left and was heading out of play, but Rustu inexplicably decided to chase it down; he was beaten to the ball by Modric, who clipped it back across onto substitute Ivan Klasnic's head for a simple goal. Let's hope that fibreglass kidney shield is sturdy, because I think the entire Croatian team plus their coaching staff all piled on top of Klasnic in their delirium.

They got just a teensy bit ahead of themselves, though, and Turkey didn't give up, taking heart from their late comebacks against both Switzerland and the Czech Republic. Slaven Bilic was ranting at the officials because he wanted to make a substitution, but he should've been shouting at his own team instead, because rather than just holding onto possession and running down the clock, Croatia tried to play the ball over the Turkish defence and were called offside. Rustu sent the free kick into the box, where it fell to Semih Senturk to score the equalizer.

Once it went to penalties, you had to give Turkey the psychological edge, and that was only strengthened when Modric stepped up to take the first spot-kick and sent it wide. (It's a bit harsh on him, because he'd been their best player by far; but we'll give him credit for not bursting into tears like John Terry, at least.) Ivan Rakitic also missed for Croatia, making it 3-1 to Turkey after Rustu saved Mladen Petric's shot -- and redeemed himself somewhat for letting them score in the first place.

So Turkey are, against all the odds, into the semi-finals. They'll have to produce something even more miraculous to get past Germany, considering that they have a slew of injuries and suspensions which will severely limit their options. But after this, you can't entirely count them out.

Bad hair of the day award: Turkish goalkeeper Rustu Recber. It's not so much a hairstyle as it's just sort of there -- an amazing combination of frizzy and lank. Add that to the sketchy goatee, and he's not somebody that you'd want to meet in a dark alley.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"...But after this, you can't entirely count them out"

Yes you can.