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Turkey so near but Germany triumph
Paul Radford in Vienna | June 26, 2008 11:00 IST
Turkey flirted with unlikely glory but in the end it was Germany [Images], as usual, who battled into another major final with a thrilling last-gasp 3-2 victory in Basel on Wednesday at Euro 2008 [Images].
Germany started as hot favourites against a Turkish side depleted by suspensions and injuries but mostly looked second best in the most exciting match of the tournament so far.
In the end, after a game which had every twist and turn imaginable, Germany grabbed a last-minute winner through fullback Philipp Lahm after Turkey looked to have forced the match into extra time with a late goal themselves.
Some of the thrills were lost on television audiences as a storm in Vienna cut the signal from the tournament's International Broadcasting Centre in the Austrian capital, blacking out screens during and at the end of the second half.
In Vienna, where Thursday's second semi-final between Russia [Images] and Spain will be played at the Ernst Happel stadium, thousands of fans were evacuated from public viewing areas because of the storm.
Germany, who had also won their quarter-final 3-2 versus Portugal, said they would not be complacent against the Turkish underdogs but showed every sign of falling right into that trap.
The Turks dominated the early play and took a well-deserved lead in the 22nd minute after Kazim Kazim had struck the bar for the second time.
This time Ugur Boral was on hand to turn in the rebound with German goalkeeper Jens Lehmann haplessly scrambling to clear with first his leg then his hand.
Germany levelled against the run of play just four minutes later with one of the best goals of the tournament, Bastian Schweinsteiger neatly flicking home a Lukas Podolski cross.
But the real drama was reserved for the closing minutes.
Germany seemed to have scored the winner in the 79th when Turkish keeper Rustu Recber rashly came out of his goal and failed to deal with a cross, leaving Miroslav Klose [Images] to head into an empty net.
But the plucky Turks were not done yet. Semih Senturk, scorer of the sensational last-minute equaliser against Croatia in the quarter-final, netted again four minutes from time with a close range effort.
The match was heading for extra time when Lahm popped up in the Turkish box and smashed the ball home to the huge relief of his team.
"It was one of most beautiful moments in my life, getting into the final," he said. "We missed that at the  World Cup. Today it worked out."
Turkey, who had 20 shots to Germany's nine, at times had observers wondering whether they were not going to repeat Greece's unlikely triumph at Euro 2004 in Portugal.
Russia, another outsider who have done better than many expected, prepared for their clash with Spain by focusing on the match and ignoring transfer rumours surrounding their players.
Their Dutch coach Guus Hiddink said his players, almost all with Russian clubs, are keeping their feet on the ground.
"Maybe they get calls that I don't want but I can't control that," he said. "But...they are very stable and they love to play football. It doesn't distract them."
Spain did have a distraction with Turkish club Fenerbahce announcing they had reached agreement with their national team coach Luis Aragones to take over in Istanbul next season.
But Aragones said he is bewildered by the announcement made earlier in the day and that he had signed nothing.
Complete Coverage: Euro 2008