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Euro 2024: Netherlands beat Turkey to set up England semi

July 6, 2024

The Netherlands came back from a goal behind to beat Turkey 2-1 and book a semifinal date with England. The 1988 champions have reached the final four for the first time in 20 years thanks to a dramatic turnaround.

Dutch players celebrate a goal against Turkey
The Netherlands started Euro 2024 slowly but are now in the last fourImage: Carmen Jaspersen/REUTERS

A Dutch double in six second half minutes broke Turkish hearts and means the Netherlands will now play England in Dortmund on Wednesday for a place in the Euro 2024 final.

After Turkey took a deserved first half lead through Samet Akaydin, goals from Stefan de Vrij and an own goal from Mert Müldür sent Ronald Koeman's side through. 

"This is very important and very beautiful, with such a crowd," said Netherlands captain Virgil van Dijk after the game. "We knew there would be a lot of Turks in the stadium, but I'm proud of these guys."

For Turkey midfielder Salih Ozcan, one of several Turkish players born in Germany, those fans were a big reason the team had come so far. 

"We are all emotional, we want to thank our fans, amazing support we got," the Borussia Dortmund midfielder said. "They carried us from match to match, their support was very important for us."

Politics plays its part

The game started at a frantic pace, matching the fiery, raucous atmosphere in Berlin. The huge Turkish diaspora population in Germany’s capital have made this feel like a home tournament for their team at times, while the upbeat Netherlands fans have also been a highlight.

Despite the intensity, neither could find as much as a shot on target in the first half hour.

That all changed shortly later, thanks to a stunning piece of play from the breakout young player of the tournament, Arda Güler. The 19-year-old brought down a loose ball brilliantly with his left before delivering a right foot cross on to the head of Akaydin at the back post. The central defender made no mistake.

Unlike plenty of the more established sides in the tournament, Turkey chose not to sit on the lead, continuing to attack the Dutch defense even if it meant leaving the odd gap on the break.

It felt like their fans would not allow them to. One of those was Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, looking on from the stands despite a diplomatic row over a gesture from Merih Demiral in the previous round.  

Demiral was banned for two games for showing the gray wolf sign, which is associated with Turkey's far-right, while celebrating his team's Tuesday victory over Austria.

Despite the ban, and the German police urging against the use of the controversial gesture, some fans were seen making the wolf salute.

Güler full of promise

In Güler, those Turkish fans look to have a player capable of reaching heights no Turkish player has before. The attacking midfielder has glided through the tournament with sublime touch and a composure way beyond his years.

Arda Güler on the ball for Turkey
Arda Güler shone for Turkey but they could not hold on to their leadImage: Sebastian Christoph Gollnow/dpa/picture alliance

Having started his career at Istanbul side Fenerbahce, Güler won a move to Champions League winners Real Madrid at the start of the 2023-24 season, only for injury to keep him out until early this year.

Though he didn't play a minute in the Champions League, he still became the first Turkish player to receive a winners' medal, under UEFA rules.

Based on his displays in Germany, it won't be his last. He almost doubled Turkey's lead after the break with a skidding, curling freekick that Netherlands' goalkeeper, Bart Verbruggen, just about tipped on the post.

Dutch delight

Every time the Dutch enjoyed a spell of possession, furious whistles rained down on them from the stands, with every Turkish touch roared like a goal.

Substitute Wout Weghorst missed the Netherland's best chance of the match, as their hopes appeared to be fading. But Stefan de Vrij rose to bury a free header in the 70th minute, before Müldür inadvertently bundled home the winner while challenging Cody Gakpo to silence the Turkish fans for the first time. 

There was still time for the underdogs to equalize and they came close without quite getting over the line. "We are one step closer," concluded Van Dijk. "We can get to work."

Edited by Rana Taha