Turkey 2-1 Switzerland: Turks Come From Behind, Shock Hosts to Stay Alive
Wednesday, 11 June 2008
Day five of GroundReport's exclusive on-the-ground coverage of Euro2008:
Turkey stole victory from Switzerland in dramatic fashion as the home-side fans in St. Jakob's Park saw their nation stumble out of the tournament.
Switzerland become the first country to be eliminated from Euro2008, and Portugal officially clinch a berth in the quarterfinals as the top seed in Group A.
The Swiss did not have their captain and top goal-scorer Alexander Frei, who was injured in their previous match against Czech Republic over the weekend. Swiss manager Jakob "Kobi" Kuhn opted to go with teenager Eren Dediyok and veteran mid-fielder Hakan Yakin up top instead.
The Turks got off to bright start, controlling possession and threatening the Swiss defense early with a combination of long balls and creative give-and-go's. A free-kick from an intriguing position, on the goal-line just outside the eighteen-yard box, nearly gave the Turks the lead, finding the head of Arda Turan and then the up-right before being cleared by Philippe Senderos.
The momentum began to shift, however, when the rain in Basel, nested near the Franco-Swiss-German border in the Central Alps, quickly grew into a downpour, and the pitch progressively developed into a rice paddy-turn-slip 'n slide - a water-park in which even the simplest of passes became complete toss-ups and every ball proved a challenge of the tallest order to the defenses and keepers. The pitch splashed with every step and bounce from the players and ball, and several on both sides were cautioned with overtly aggressive tackles after sliding an extra five yards thanks to the wet surface.
In the 32nd minute, Hakan Yakin found fellow front-man Derdiyok near the penalty box with a long pass, who sidestepped the Turkish keeper Volkan Demirel and squared the ball across the face of the goal back to Yakin. The ball all but stopped completely in the mud before reaching Yakin, though, and the Swiss-born, ethnically-Turkish Yakin could not have had an easier professional goal, half a yard out with the keeper no-where to be seen.
Yakin nearly scored again from the exact same spot just seconds later, after making an un-marked diagonal run across the box and being squared an identical ball from mid-fielder Valon Behrami. Yakin, unable to predict the path of the ball, could not direct it neatly into the back of the net, however, and the Swiss went into the half up by one.
In the 52nd minute, with the pitch somewhat more manageable and the rain gone, the Turks came up with a leveling goal. The sizzler from substitute Sehmi Senturk, however, did not count - Sehmi was adjudged offsides.
Just five minutes later, Semih equalized for real - a slight nod to tap a brilliant lob thirty yards out from fellow striker Nihat Kahveci put the ball past Swiss keeper Diego Benaglio and into the goal.
The Swiss caught the Turkish defense completely off-guard on a four-on-one counter-attack in the 84th minute, the peak of an entertaining half that see-sawed with opportunities and missed chances on both sides of the pitch. Only the hands of keeper Demirel spoiled Switzerland from a potential winner.
And then, three minutes into stoppage time, Arda Turan broke the hearts of the home-side with a flashy display of individual skill, taking a brilliant through-ball from Sehmi at the center circle and firing a shot into the back of the net from the top of the penalty box.
Switzerland and Turkey last met in competitive play three years ago during a play-off for the final European spot in the 2006 World Cup. During that match in Istanbul, two players were banned and a handful more suspended after an ugly confrontation on the pitch that followed immediately after the match.
The Swiss play Portugal on Saturday in what will most likely be a meaningless match, while Turkey and Czech Republic battle for the remaining quarterfinal spot at the same time. Both the latter sides are tied at three points apiece, the Czechs having lost earlier today.
In other news, Luis Felipe Scolari, the current Portuguese national coach, was officially appointed the new head coach of English side Chelsea FC, replacing interim manager Avram Grant after Chelsea lost the UEFA Champions League Final to Premiership rivals Manchester United.
Tags: Euro 2008 , Switzerland-Austria , Switzerland , St. Jakob's Park , Basel , Turkey , Portugal , Alexander Frei , Kobi Kuhn , Jakob Kuhn
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