Classic Euros rewind: Turkey v Czech Republic, 2008

Euro 2020 is set to kick off on June 11, after it was postponed for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Turkey face Italy on the first night of action at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.

With a little under a month to go until the highly-anticipated tournament gets underway, we’re going to be taking a look at some of the best matches the European Championships have given us since they were founded in 1954.

Our first classic match will see us revisit Euro 2008, and a crunch, winner-takes-all Group A match between Turkey and Czech Republic:

Pre-match

Both sides were drawn in the opening group of the competition, alongside Portugal and joint-hosts Switzerland.

The Portuguese went into the final round of group fixtures knowing they were already through, having won both of their opening games.

Switzerland, who knew they were out of the competition no matter what, beat them 2-0 in Basel.

If that game was essentially academic, the clash between Turkey and Czech Republic certainly wasn’t.

The Czechs went into the tournament as one of four teams in pot two, having been ranked fourth in the world when the draw was made.

They’d finished top of their qualifying group ahead of Germany on head-to-head record, and the squad contained the likes of Petr Cech, Milan Baros and 35-year-old Jan Koller.

Meanwhile, Turkey, captained by the tough-tackling Newcastle midfielder Emre Belozoglu, had qualified as runners-up in a group that contained Euro 2004 winners Greece.

They lost their opening game of the main tournament 2-0 to Portugal, whilst Czech Republic recorded a 1-0 victory over the hosts.

Turkey beat Switzerland 2-1 in their next game, thanks to a 92nd minute winner from Arda Turan – one of a number of late goals involving the side at that Euros – whilst their final fixture opponents lost 3-1 to Portugal.

It meant that both sides had identical records heading into what became the decider.

The game

Turkey Czech Republic
Image Credit: Getty

Czech Republic began the game the stronger, with Koller heading over the bar from a free-kick.

Marek Matejovsky then fired narrowly wide on the half-volley from 25 yards.

And it was indeed the Czechs who opened the scoring, Koller heading beyond Turkey ‘keeper Volkan Demirel – who got a glove on the ball – on 34 minutes.

Koller was causing plenty of problems for the opposition defence, and another header went over the bar shortly before half-time.

The Turks did look more threatening after the break, but it was Karel Bruckner’s side who should have extended their advantage when Koller missed a one-on-one chance on 60 minutes.

But they weren’t denied for long, as the Czechs then went 2-0 up seven minutes late, Jaroslav Plasil sliding in at the back post to score.

For Turkey, it appeared as if it was game over.

But then everything changed.

Hamit Altintop’s cross skidded across the penalty area and landed at the feet of Turan, who squeezed the ball in at Petr Cech’s near post on 75 minutes to halve the deficit.

Now it was Turkey doing the attacking, and they found their equaliser with three minutes of normal time to play.

Cech came out to meet a cross but couldn’t claim the ball cleanly, and it dropped to the feet of Nihat Kahveci who made no mistake from close range. 2-2.

The scorer of that second goal would then spark scenes of delight across Turkey. On 89 minutes, Nihat ran on to a through ball, shaped his body and exquisitely curled the ball into the top corner off the crossbar.

The drama didn’t end there, however. Demirel was sent off after he pushed Koller to the ground, and Turkey were down to 10 men.

And with manager Fatih Terim having used all his substitutions, Middlesbrough midfielder Tuncay Sanli ended the game in net as Turkey saw out a priceless victory.

The aftermath

Czech Republic Turkey
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Following their elimination from the tournament, Koller retired from international football but would return a year later.

Czech Republic failed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, but have made it to every European Championship since then, reaching the quarter-finals in 2012.

Turkey, meanwhile, defeated Croatia in the quarter-finals of Euro 2008 with some more last-minute heroics.

Ivan Klasnic put Croatia ahead on 119 minutes, but Semih Senturk equalised deep in stoppage time.

Turkey won the subsequent penalty shootout 3-1, with Turan, Semih and Altintop all converting their spot kicks.

That set up a semi-final against Germany, which seemed destined for another period of extra-time after Semih’s 86th-minute equaliser made the scores 2-2.

But this time, there was late heartache for Fatih Terim’s side. Philipp Lahm scored a 90th-minute winner for Germany, who would go on to lose the final 1-0 to Spain.

Featured Image Credit: Getty