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Sports

Turkey Progress to Semi-Finals After Stunning Win Over Croatia

Turkey defeated Croatia in a penalty shoot-out following a remarkable last few minutes of extra-time in Vienna Friday to reach the semi-finals of the European Championships and a meeting with record champions Germany.

Turkish player celebrate their win at the end of the quarterfinal match between Croatia and Turkey in Vienna

Keeper Rustu was the star

The victory came after a dramatic climax to the extra-time period, which was preceded by a less entertaining, goalless 90 minutes. Croatia celebrated what they thought to be a 119th-minute winner from substitute Ivan Klasnic, only for Semih Senturk to equalize for Turkey with the last kick of the game.

Turkey kept their cool in the penalty showdown, winning 3-1 after Croatia missed three of their four spot kicks -- the last saved by veteran goalkeeper Rustu Recber -- and Turkey converted all of theirs.

An emotional Turkey coach Fatih Terim said: "What has happened to us today is unique in history. We have become one of the most important football nations. Our people can celebrate with us. If our people are proud of us then we are proud of our people."

Croatia coach Slaven Bilic put a brave face on defeat, saying Turkey's last-gasp equalizer was "a dream goal."

Senturk challenges for the ball with Croatia's Niko Kovac and Robert Kovac

Senturk got in the last kick of the game

"It is unbelievable. That is why football is the best sport in the world," he said before adding: "the last two minutes were unbelievable. This will probably haunt me for the rest of my life."


Late drama


It was the third match in a row in which Turkey have pulled a game out of the fire in the last seconds after defeating Switzerland and Czech Republic in the group stage with last-gasp goals.

"This is indescribable," said Turkey's Hamit Altintop, who was voted man of the match. "Now anything can happen. If we carry on like this and believe in ourselves then a lot can happen."

The late drama made up for an unattractive first 90 minutes in which Croatia enjoyed the best of the opportunities.

After the high-class first quarter-final between Germany and Portugal the previous evening in Basel, the 51,428 capacity crowd in the Ernst Happel Stadion had to endure a dull and disjointed game.


Turkish omissions

Terim could perhaps excuse his side's lack of cohesion after injuries and suspension forced him to reshuffle. There was a new look to the defense, with Emre Asik and Gokhan Zan in the center, while veteran keeper Rustu was recalled in place of suspended Volkan Demirel, who will also miss the semi-final unless his appeal against a two-match ban is upheld on Monday.

Turkey will also be without Arda Turan, Tuncay Sanli and Emre Asik, who received their second booking of the tournament, while Nihat Kahveci, who was substituted with an injury, must be doubtful.

Terim said he had not yet thought about the players missing for the next game. "I haven't been able to do any damage assessment yet.

"Emre, Tuncay and Arda will be suspended for the semi-final... we will see about that," he said.

Turkey began brightly and Hamit Altintop fired wide from 20 meters, but Croatia looked more threatening, and Olic should have opened the scoring in the 19th minute when Luka Modric found him in the area with a low cross but the SV Hamburg striker blasted over from six meters in one of the misses of the tournament.


Croatia's Ivan Klasnic celebrates after scoring the opening goal

Croatia thought they had a sure thing for a while

Turkey rarely got forward after the break but remained stubborn in defense and Croatia, who had looked so inventive in defeating Germany 2-1, found it hard to create any danger.

Olic and Ivan Rakitic had opportunities and a free-kick outside the box from Darijo Srna six minutes from time was well saved by Rustu.

The 35-year-old keeper, Turkey's most-capped player in his 117th game, had experienced some uncertain moments but then thwarted Modric from close range in the final minute to take the game into extra-time.


Croatia thought they were through

Croatian fans in the stadium, who had been lighting flares in the stands, raised the noise levels in the extra period after Turkey began to look more enterprising, and Semih fired over the bar before Sanli narrowly shot wide of the post.

But when Rustu left his goal but failed to get the ball near the byline ahead of Modric, substitute Klasnic took full advantage to head Modric's cross into the empty net.

But there was still time for Rustu to make amends for the error as it was his long ball downfield which eventually broke to Semih to blast the ball into the top corner of the net.

Until that moment, Croatia were already eyeing up a return match with Germany in the semi-final in Basel next Wednesday.


Croatia's player Ivica Olic tries to score against Turkish goalkeeper Rustu

Olic missed his chance

But perhaps shocked by Semih's equalizer, Modric and Rakitic both missed the goal completely from the spot while Srna converted his and substitute Mladen Petric saw Rustu save his effort.

Turan, Semih and Altintop all converted their penalties for Turkey to secure a remarkable victory.

"This is football, you should never give up until the end, until the referee blows the final whistle," said Terim. "That is why it is such an interesting game."






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