Thursday, February 2, 2023

Euro 2008 day nine – Switzerland 2-0 Portugal, Czech Republic 2-3 Turkey.

Day nine of Euro 2008 provided us with everything you could want from two football matches. Great goals, shocks, wonderful come backs, sendings off and totally absorbing, entertaining and thrilling football.

I never thought I would write the above phrase about games between the Czech Republic and Turkey and another between Portugal reserves and Switzerland, but those four teams did produce another marvelous exhibition of European football at its best.

Portugal, who had already won the group, rested eight of their normal starting eleven. There was no Ronaldo, Deco, Nuno Gomez, Carvalho etc, but they still had a reasonably strong side on the field. Switzerland, already out, persisted with the players who had been unlucky to lose 1-0 to the Czechs and 2-1 to Turkey.

Portugal started the game well and Quaresma and Nani were a constant threat for the Swiss. The first half ended goalless after chances at both ends, but Portugal had definitely looked the more likely team to open the scoring.

The game remained without a goal until twenty minutes from the end when Hakan Yakin latched onto a flick by Derdiyok and slotted the ball past Ricardo. Yakin added a second, his third of the tournament, from the penalty spot after a foul on Barnetta.

It was a fitting way for the Swiss to go out of the tournament and for the team to say a thank you to manager Kobi Kuhn who was overseeing his final match in charge of the Swiss.

In the other game we had many people’s outside bet for the tournament the Czech Republic, taking on many people’s no hopers, Turkey. It was a ‘winner takes all’ game with both teams going into the match with identical records. A draw would mean a penalty shoot-out to decide who would go through to meet Croatia in the quarter-finals.

The Czechs turned back to their veteran striker Jan Koller, who had been so poor in their first game, to make his ninetieth appearance for his country.

The game started with the Czechs making the running and looking a good bet to go through. Jan Koller found his old ability and everything was going through the giant target man who managed to turn back the years.

The only real surprise of the first half was that it took until the thirty fourth minute for Koller to give the Czech Republic the lead with a trademark header past the very impressive Volkan. It was Koller’s fifty fifth international goal, a remarkable scoring record.

After the half-time break Turkey came out like a new side. The attacked the Czechs knowing that this was their last chance and that they needed to score. They created a number of chances but left themselves exposed to the counter-attack.

When Plasil met Sionko’s cross on the half-volley just beyond the far post and side footed past Volkan to make the score 2-0 just after the hour it looked as though it was ‘game over’. The Czechs had scored against the run of play but with Turkey throwing so many men forward it was always a possibility.

Jan Polak hit the post as the Czech’s missed a chance to put Turkey out of reach and it proved crucial as Turan was found by Hamit Altintop and drove in a shot to make it 2-1 after 75 minutes.

However, the Czechs weathered the storm and remained ahead with three minutes to go. As Turkey pushed forward, another hopeful cross was swung into the Czech area but it was too close to the ever impressive Petr Cech. As he jumped to gather the ball I would guess that most people looked away thinking that Turkey had blown one of their last chances.

Luckily for the Turks, Nihat kept his concentration and tapped in the equaliser when Cech inexplicably dropped the ball at his feet. It was an horrendous error by the man many people rate as the best keeper in the world.

That shock goal seemed to knock the stuffing out of the Czechs and Turkey piled forward in search of an unlikely winner. Two minutes later with the spectre of penalties looming, Nihat took advantage of Ujfalusi finding himself way out of position and Jankulovski playing him onside to run through on Cech and fire an unstoppable shot into the Czech net off the underside of the crossbar to send the Turks into raptures and into the quarter-final.

There was still time for the Turkish keeper Volkan, who has been outstanding throughout the tournament, to push the giant Koller over in an act of extreme stupidity following a minor clash. The referee, who was looking straight at the incident, had no choice but to produce the red card. What Volkan was thinking about in injury time of the game just prior to a European Championship quarter-final, only he will ever know.

At the final whistle there were joyous scenes of celebration for the Turks whilst the shell shocked Czechs couldn’t believe what had happened to them.

It was another great day of football. The tournament just keeps getting better and better. Today it is the turn of Germany. Can they get the point they need against the host nation Austria? They probably will, but after seeing Petr Cech do what he did last night and the Turks complete such an unlikely comeback, I wouldn’t bet on anything!


Graham Fisher



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