Just an incredible day of drama as Turkey amazingly comes from behind in a de-facto elimination game to beat Czech Republic and advance to the quarterfinals.
In case you missed it, here are brief recaps of today’s Group A contests:
TURKEY 3, CZECH REPUBLIC 2: In what will be remembered as one of the great group games in the history of the European Championships, Turkey scored three goals in the final 15 minutes to come-from-behind against Czech Republic to advance to the knockout stage on the final day of Group A. Down 2-0 in the 75th minute, Arda Turan pulled a goal back for the Turks before captain Nihat Kahveci scored two late goals in amazing fashion. Jan Koller and Jaroslav Plasil had earlier given the Czechs a 2-0 lead.
SWITZERLAND 2, PORTUGAL 0: Swiss forward Hakan Yakin scored twice in the second half as the hosts bowed out of Euro 2008 in graceful fashion. Yakin scored in the 71st minute before adding a second via a penalty kick 12 minutes later. Portugal had already clinched top spot in Group A and fielded a much-weakened side.
MY ANALYSIS: Wow. Just wow.
As ESPN analyst Andy Gray pointed out, if ever you were trying to show someone why we all love this game, take out the tape of the second half between Turkey and Czech Republic and show it to them. I dare anybody to watch this one and say they weren’t entertained.
There was high drama from the opening whistle, and it just got better and better and better as the match progressed.
After falling behind 2-0 in the 62nd minute, you could hardly have blamed the Turks for losing belief. But that’s not what happened at all. With inspirational midfielder Tuncay Sanli driving them on, Turkey kept going, and after pulling a goal back in the 75th minute, the magic was yet to come.
Somehow Czech Republic goalkeeper Petr Cech, who is undisputedly one of the top keepers in the World, dropped a simple cross from the right side in the 87th minute, and Nihat Kahvci gleefully slotted it home to equalize. We all thought we were going to see the first penalty shootout in the group stages of the European Championships, but two minutes later, Kahveci’s wicked shot from just inside the area ricocheted off the crossbar and fell in.
I got into soccer via the 2002 World Cup, so my exposure to International matches is relatively limited to this decade. However, of all the International matches I’ve ever seen, I can’t think of anything that would come close to touching this one. Simply an incredible and breathtaking 90 minutes.
TODAY’S STAR MAN: Tuncay Sanli, Turkey. Quite literally all over the globe praise is ringing in for this Middlesbrough defender and I simply echo those sentiments. He was everywhere throughout the second half and hauled his Turks back into the game. Epic, epic performance.
TODAY’S TOP GOAL: Nihat Kahveci’s second goal vs. Czech Republic. Could it possibly be any other goal than this one? In the 89th minute, Turkey slots the ball through to the captain. He looks to have been way offside but wasn’t because Czech defender Tomas Galasek played him on. With Cech flying off his line, Kahveci brilliantly rips his shot over him and in off the underside of the crossbar.
Germany vs. Austria, ESPN, 12:45 p.m.
Croatia vs. Poland, ESPN Classic, 12:45 p.m.
For those of you who caught today’s action, what did you think of the proceedings? Any disagreements with my choice for player of the day or goal of the day?