GENEVA (AFP) – Ten-man Turkey made the greatest of escapes to book their Euro 2008 quarter-final berth as they came from 2-0 down to stun the Czech Republic 3-2 here on Sunday and take their place in the quarter-finals.
Turkish Nihat Kahveci (R) celebrates with Arda Turan after scoring
The Turks had looked dead and buried on 62 minutes as Czech winger Jaroslav Plasil scored his side’s second goal following a first-half header from giant striker Jan Koller as the Euro 2004 semi-finalists looked safe.
But three goals in the last 15 minutes – including two by captain Nihat Kahveci in the 87th and 89th minutes – put them in the quarter-finals.
Turkish Servet Cetin (L) fights for the ball with Czech Jan Koller
“The third goal was an error and led to our collapse,” said Czech coach Karel Bruckner.
“To lose such a match is incredible, there was 15 minutes left when the first goal went in, they just kept coming until we lost.
“We buckled under the pressure, it is going to make many nights to get over this,” added the 68-year-old, who will have plenty of time for that now he is stepping down as planned and will return to one of his hobbies gardening on his farm.
His opposite number Turkish coach Fatih Terim, who may well earn an even higher title than his present nickname ‘The Emperor’, had a clear message for the Turkish people.
The foot of Turkish Emre Asik touches the head of Czech Jan Polak
“I send a message to my country and I say to the people ‘get on the streets, celebrate this victory, profit from this moment’!
“I said after beating the Swiss (2-1 winning with another late goal) that people would remember us. I say that again today (Sunday)!”
Czech captain Tomas Ujfalusi was left as stunned as his shellshocked team-mates.
“We led 2-0 and should have controlled things from there,” said the former Fiorentina defender.
Turkish Arda Turan (3rd R) scores past Czech Petr Cech (R)
“But we completely messed up the end of the match. We went onto the back foot after their first goal and all we can say is we are distraught.”
There was no need for the anticipated historic penalty shoot-out after Turkey’s late showing when Arda Turan hit a superb strike past Petr Cech to give his side hope with 15 minutes left.
Turkish Tuncay Sanli (L) fights for the ball with Czech Marek Jankulovski
Then Kahveci struck twice – the first coming from an unbelievable howler by the normally sound Cech – to put his side into the last eight and set up a quarter-final clash against Group B winners Croatia in Vienna on Friday.
There was intense drama in the dying stages when Turkey goalkeeper Volkan Demirel was show a red card, but the Turks were not to be denied to leave the Czechs heart-broken.
A penalty shoot-out had been a pre-match option as both teams had come the Stade de Geneve with identical Group A records from their two previous games.
But in the end Turkey join Portugal in the quarter-finals, while the Czechs pack their bags.
Bruckner had opted for the towering Koller as the lone striker up front in place of totally out of form ex-Liverpool forward Milan Baros, who was to show how far he had fallen since being top scorer at the championships four years ago by being booked even though he never got on the pitch.
Terim opted to play Fenerbahce’s Semih Senturk alongside Kahveci up front in a traditional 4-4-2 formation unlike the 4-3-3 he used against the Swiss.
With so much at stake, the Turks made an aggressive start with Brazilian-born Mehmet Aurelio picking up a second yellow card of the tournament joining fellow midfielder Mehmet Topal in the referee’s book.
After sustained Czech pressure, the decision to play Koller paid off on 34 minutes when he scored his 55th goal in his 90th, and what was to turn out to be his last appearance, for his country.
Juventus defender Zdenek Grygera whipped in a cross and Koller rose highest and although Demirel palmed the ball onto the underpart of the cross bar, it flipped into the net.
It was no more than the Czechs deserved and Bruckner must have wondered why his side were not more than 1-0 up at the half-time break.
As the rain poured down at the start of the second-half, so Turkey stepped up their attack with Kahveci twice going close, but Cech was solid in the Czech goal.
The Czechs looked to have sealed the match when they took a 2-0 lead as Plasil hit a bullet strike, using the wet turf brilliantly to slide onto Libor Sionko’s cross on 62 minutes which gave Demirel no chance.
But Turkey showed fighting spirit and deserved to pull a goal back after laying siege to the Czech goal as winger Halil Altintop slid in a cross and Turan rifled his shot home.
And a mistake by Cech put Turkey back in the tie when Kahveci pounced on the Chelsea goalkeepers mistake with just three minutes left.
His winner right at the death put Turkish fans in seventh heaven and leave many a Czech supporter with their head in their hands.