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Resilient streak gives Turkey hope
Mark Meadows in Basel | June 25, 2008 14:19 IST
Late, late goals have been key to Turkey reaching the Euro 2008 [Images] semi-finals along with their ability to cope with a string of injuries and suspensions.
Wednesday's last four clash with Germany [Images] in Basel will test their resources to the limit with possibly only 12 outfield players available.
However, the Turks are a tightly knit unit and have already shown they can triumph over adversity.
They were overrun in a 2-0 defeat by Portugal in their opening group game with the defence looking ragged and the attack creating very little.
The 2002 World Cup semi-finalists were 1-0 down and on their way out at halftime of the second group match with Switzerland [Images] before substitute Semih Senturk equalised and Arda Turan grabbed a stoppage time winner to eliminate the co-hosts.
"When our opponents are favourites it motivates us," Semih told reporters.
They showed their inner-belief and never-say-die attitude again in the dramatic final group game with Czech Republic, where both sides were fighting for a last-eight spot.
Another bad start led to the Czechs taking a 2-0 lead but Arda pulled one back before striker Nihat Kahveci, now out of the tournament through injury, netted in the 87th and 89th minutes to seal a stunning 3-2 win.
Turkey were again on the backfoot early on against Croatia in the quarter-final and were fortunate not to concede in the first half with the defence exposed down the flanks.
As in the previous games, they improved as the game wore on and had some good chances in extra time before Ivan Klasnic headed in for Croatia a minute from the end.
Everyone thought the game was over, everyone except Turkey coach Fatih Terim. He told his troops to launch the ball into the box and it fell kindly for Semih, who slammed in a deflected effort in the 122nd minute before Turkey won 3-1 on penalties.
The Turks will have to make a better start than they have so far if they are to threaten favourites Germany and creative midfielder Hamit Altintop, on Bayern Munich's books, must shine.
German-born Hamit likes to drift between the midfield and attack, making it hard for defenders to pick him up. However, against Croatia he was particularly wasteful with his final ball.
They also cannot afford any further indiscipline given their raft of injuries. Four are banned for the game including goalkeeper Volkan Demirel.
Complete Coverage: Euro 2008