(2 of 2)
Turkey would not go out so meekly. Or humbly. "We didn't deserve to lose," said defender Gökhan Zan. "If we look at the statistics we had more possession and more shots on goal, but it wasn't much of a help." It rarely is against Germany. Turkey coach Fatih Terim must now know what it feels like to manage a weekend amateur side, when the manager's most pressing issue often is: Will we be 11 today? Having lost four players to suspension and don't get me started on the inconsistent refereeing and five others to injuries both niggling and grave, Terim didn't have to think that hard about selection for the encounter with Germany. Show for the game and you're in.
So it's quite understandable that Germany ultimately prevailed, 3-2, against a team that lit up the tournament. The high-flying Turkish circus only folded its tent in the 90th minute when Germany's left fullback Philipp Lahm collected Thomas Hitzlsperger's return pass through four Turkish players and slammed the winner by Rüstü Reçber. It was one of the few moments that this disciplined team broke down. Terim may rant on the sideline as though somebody put tacks in his trainers, but his team never varied from its approach and never, ever, stopped working.
Certainly, Turkey gave Germany a lot to think about going into Sunday's match. The Turks launched themselves against Germany from the opening whistle take note, Spain and Kazim Kazim's smash off the crossbar in the 7th minute served notice that even this makeshift team was going to be a handful. The Turks abused the German outside backs all night, often getting into deep positions behind them. Lahm got taken to the cleaners on Turkey's first goal, when Sabri Sarioglu went around him in a drive that ended with a rebound shot from Ugur Boral. His awkward, sweeping attempt fooled Jens Lehmann, and the German keeper fumbled it into his own net.
The German response came just four minutes later, and was symptomatic of the Turks' problems at the back. Hitzslperger released Lukas Podolski down the left wing as Germany broke 4 on 5. But Poldo turned inside two defenders and found Bastian Schweinsteiger streaking toward the near post just as he had against Portugal. The result was the same, too: Schweini's flick with the outside of his right boot floated past Rüstü to knot the event at 1 each.
Although Germany seemed to wake as the second half progressed, it never seemed threatening, aside from a couple of Hitzlsperger rockets that flared wide. But Turkey was tiring, backing up, and in Rüstü, the second-choice keeper, the net was vulnerable. So it seemed almost inevitable that Germany would strike with a long ball to Miroslav Klose in the 79th minute that Rüstü completely botched and Klose didn't. His header put Germany in front, but as it has been most of the tournament, falling behind is merely a signal to Turkey to start the big finale. So it seemed just as inevitable that the answer would come soon enough, in the 86th minute. Once again, Sarioglu undressed Lahm on the outside and rolled in a cross that Semih Senturk steered past Lehmann. This time, though, Lahm would have the riposte and Germany would be in the finals again. "I'm sure that people in Europe will be talking about us," said Zan.
They sure are. But with a wistful sense of what might have been now that the focus has shifted to Germany and Spain.