Throughout Euro 2016 we will be serialising Rob Fielder’s marvellously comprehensive book, The Complete History of the European Championship. The series will look at the 10 greatest matches in the tournament’s history, recalling the events around the games and many of the wonderful players who have graced the competition over the years. We began with Yugoslavia’s fightback against France in the semi-final of the 1960 European Nations’ Cup, continued with England’s victory against the Netherlands at Euro ’96, and now it’s time for the thrilling quarter-final between Germany and Turkey at Euro 2008…
GERMANY – TURKEY 3:2 (1:1)
Scorers: 1:0 Ugur Boral 22, 1:1 Schweinsteiger 26, 2:1 Klose 79, 2:2 Senturk 86, 3:2 Lahm 90
25.06.2008 (20.45) Basel (Switzerland), St. Jakob-Park, Att: 39,374
GER: Lehmann; Friedrich, Mertesacker, Metzelder, Lahm; Hitzlsperger, Rolfes (Frings HT); Schweinsteiger, Ballack (c), Podolski; Klose (Jansen 90).
TUR: Rüştü (c); Sabri, Mehmet Topal, Gökhan Zan, Hakan Balta; Mehmet Aurelio; Kazim-Richards (Tumer 90), Hamit Altıntop, Ayhan (Mevlut 81), Uğur (Gökdeniz 84); Senturk
Referee: Massimo Busacca (Switzerland)
Nobody had given Turkey a chance of making the semi-finals at Euro 2008 and yet here they were, taking on three-time champions Germany for a spot in the last two. It had been quite the journey to get this far. The group stage brought miraculous recoveries against hosts Switzerland and then the Czech Republic, with Turkey fighting back from 2-0 down to win 3-2 with a brace in the final five minutes from Nihat.
They left it even later in the quarter-finals. After a soporific 119 minutes against Croatia, Fatih Terim’s side went behind in the dying moments, only to bounce back once more and force a penalty shoot-out in which they ultimately prevailed. With a slew of injuries and suspensions, the manager hardly had an embarrassment of riches to choose from, but the comeback kings proved they should never be written off and there were few teams who would relish facing them now.
Germany meanwhile had set few pulses racing in the group stage, losing to Croatia in Klagenfurt, but scraping through after wins over Poland and Austria. Yet the manner of their 3-2 victory over Portugal in the quarters suggested they were coming good at the right time and they had all the tournament experience needed to fall back on. It promised to be a classic encounter and for once pre-match expectations were more than vindicated.
What was slightly unexpected was the way in which Turkey started the game. The breakneck speed and conviction of their play stunned the Germans who simply had no answer in the opening stages. A series of attacks kept Die Mannschaft largely penned in their half and it was clear which side carried the greater threat.
The first significant chance came after 13 minutes when Colin Kazim-Richards, the London-born attacker who earned the nickname the “Coca-Cola kid” after a subsidised transfer to Brighton, crashed a strike against the bar. In the aftermath Bastian Schweinsteiger made a hash of clearing his lines and that opened up a sight of goal for Semih Senturk who missed at the near post. Ten minutes later it all happened again. Kazim-Richards struck the bar once more with a looping effort but this time it fell kindly to Uğur Boral whose awkward shot somehow eluded Lehmann and bounced scruffily into the net.
The Turks were more than deserving of the lead but it was a momentary advantage. A clever dart from Lukas Podolski created space for a cross from the left and Schweinsteiger demonstrated a striker’s instincts with a run to the near post and a deftly stabbed finish with the outside of his right boot to send the ball past Rüştü Recber. Soon Lehmann was nearly caught out by a whipped free-kick from Hamit Altıntop but he just recovered to tip the ball over and keep things level. Then Podolski had a terrific chance as he streaked away from the defence, but a couple of poor touches hindered his progress and he blasted over when Miroslav Klose was steaming in at the far post.
Quickly after the interval came one of the most controversial moments of the match. There was clearly contact by Sabri to bring down Philipp Lahm but the real question was whether the offence had taken place inside or outside the area. Ultimately it proved to be a moot point as referee Massimo Busacca waved away the German protests to the fury of skipper Michael Ballack.
For much of the second half Turkey’s initial drive and passion was absent as Germany were increasingly able to stamp their authority on the match. Thomas Hitzlsperger lashed an effort just past the upright and there was a sense that Joachim Löw’s side were building momentum. Their eventual breakthrough owed much to Rüştü who, after making a terrible blunder against Croatia, did the same here as he chose to come for a cross from Lahm that he had no hope of claiming. That misjudgement played into the hands of Klose and he headed powerfully into the empty net to make it 2-1.
Yet the Turks had built their reputation at these finals on resilience and once more they demonstrated a remarkable fighting spirit. Some superb work from Sabri down the right took him away from Lahm and his ball towards the near post caused the German defence problems. With Lehmann waiting to gather the rolling ball, Senturk nipped ahead of Per Mertesacker and prodded the cross in at the near post for a shock equaliser.
Now the match appeared set for extra-time but for once the Turks got a taste of their own medicine. This time Lahm came forward on the left flank, cutting inside and playing a smart one-two with Hitzlsperger. The return pass found the Bayern full-back inside the area and he stroked a confident finish past Rüştü to snatch victory at the death and make the score 3-2. It seemed a bitter pill for Turkey but they had accomplished far more at Euro 2008 than had ever been predicted and they went out having played their part in another scintillating encounter.