Thursday, June 26, 2008

Euro 2008: Germany vs Turkey (S/F)

Turkey Stung by their own medicine in the Semis.

The victorious German team after they beat Turkey in Semifinals of the Euro cup.

Score: Germany 3-2 Turkey (After Full time)

German football as we know it - the team who endure, the team who come through, the team who win - was born in Switzerland, 60 miles from the stadium where they fought their desperate way through to another final.

'The Miracle of Berne', the victory in the 1954 World Cup final against a Hungarian side who had put eight goals past them in the group stages and who were two up after eight minutes, was the moment German football began to believe in itself. It was the moment they started to become the team we know now; the one who devote themselves to ensuring that miracles in football do not happen. Last night they so nearly failed.

Germany were five minutes from their sixth European Championship final when once more the Turks did something extraordinary. Sabri Sarioglu shot from a ludicrously tight angle and as Jens Lehmann prepared to gather it, Semih Senturk nipped in to embarrass the goalkeeper and cancel out what should have been a decisive second German goal by Miroslav Klose.

Logically, the Turks should not have come back and yet logic has had nothing to do with their remarkable charge through this competition. "We are leaving as the most colourful team of the tournament. We were so nearly there," said their manager, Fatih Terim, who indicated he would be stepping down on their return to Istanbul.

The way he steered a team ruined by injuries and suspension to the last four of probably the toughest international tournament of all, ought to ensure he is not short of work. "Seventy million people's hearts beat as one with the players tonight," he said. "And for their sake we have to participate in more tournaments like this."

Unless there is a successful Vatican bid to stage Euro 2016, it is hard to think of another tournament where there will be so many miracles. The Austrian media appealed to the memory of 'The Miracle of Cordoba', when they eliminated Germany from the 1978 World Cup. They celebrated Turkey's victory over Croatia as 'The Miracle of Vienna'. So many times we seemed about to witness 'The Miracle of Basle'.

All the old German resilience, however, came to the fore. On the edge of the box and the edge of extra time, a one-two saw Philipp Lahm clear on goal and his was not the finish of a left-back. It was, however, the finish of a German left-back under pressure.

Sepp Herberger, the man who led West Germany to victory in 1954, used to say: "The ball is round, a game lasts 90 minutes; everything else is theory." The theories surrounding this semi-final were that Germany would ruthlessly steamroller an exhausted, depleted Turkey. The game proved Herberger's point. The script was shredded.

When Ugur Boral drove a rebound off the crossbar between Lehmann's legs after Colin Kazim-Richards had struck the frame of the goal, the predictions looked worthless. Kazim-Richards had already driven much more deliberately against the German crossbar before the Turks broke through against a strangely nervous and shoddy German side.

Even when Bastian Schweinsteiger equalised, Turkey kept attacking as their midfielder, Hamit Altintop, born in Gelsenkirchen and employed by Bayern Munich, argued beforehand that they had to. Altintop's free-kick that swerved and dipped suddenly, forcing Lehmann to tip over, was a perfect illustration of an extraordinary night. The half-time statistics showed Turkey had 15 shots, nine of which were on target, and immediately after the interval, Joachim Low threw on Torsten Frings, who gradually restored order to the midfield.

When analysing this semi-final beforehand, which he confidently expected to be won by Germany, Arsene Wenger remarked that what set them apart was their efficiency in the final third. The Arsenal manager argued that while Spain may need 14 chances to force a breakthrough, Germany habitually required only five or six. Schweinsteiger, Klose and Lahm proved Wenger's point. They had nine shots and scored three times.

The first was critical. A long ball found Lukas Podolski and when he crossed into the area, Schweinsteiger slid in to meet it. Germany, unjustly and perhaps predictably, were level.

Before and after the match Low and his team were greeted with a vast banner of the Vienna skyline with the words: "Journey's End." They reached it, as many thought they would, but nobody imagined the final steps would be this steep.

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