TURKEY left it late again to record victory, with a dramatic penalty-shoot out success after an equaliser in injury time of extra-time at Vienna’s Ernst Happel Stadium left Croatia defeated and took Fatih Terim’s side into the Euro 2008 semi-final.
Turkey won in even more stunning circumstances than against Czech Republic in their final group game, having looked dead and buried after Croatia’s Ivan Klasnic had broken 119 minutes of goalless action.
Croatia boss Slaven Bilic had run down the touchline in celebration but there was more to come in a remarkable finale — Semih Senturk rifling into the top corner to force penalties.
After Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic went wide with their spot-kicks, Rustu Recber saved from Mladen Petric to set up a fixture in Basle against Germany next week.
It also came against the odds as injuries and suspension left Terim with just 15 outfield players and eight of his starting XI on a yellow card.
Victory came at a cost as Tuncay Sanli, Arda Turan and Emre Asik will be banned for the semi-final after picking up yellow cards.
Nihat Kahveci also appeared to pick up a groin strain.
That will not matter, however, to the Turkish quarter in Vienna who were sent into wild celebration when Rustu saved Petric’s kick.
Known as “The Emperor”, Terim now has a chance of eclipsing the deeds of 2002, when Turkey reached the semi-finals of the World Cup.
The destroyers of England in qualifying, Croatia were undone by a stubborn Turkish performance. On the day Steve McClaren got back into management after losing his England job following defeat to Croatia, Bilic’s dream finally ended.
This was despite a promising start.
Turkey had reached the last eight with back-to-back comebacks, against Switzerland then famously against the Czechs — and they looked in danger of falling behind early to Bilic’s men.
It had been a week of turmoil for the Turks, with their coach Terim accused of courting a move back to Italy’s Serie A, then their victory over the Czechs leading to a youngster getting injured when shots were fired in the air.
On the pitch, they were hit by injuries and suspensions, and Croatia almost took advantage of unfamiliarity in the Turkish defence early on.
Veteran goalkeeper Rustu, deputising for Volkan Demirel, failed to clear his lines and Rakitic raced down the left to cross for Darijo Srna — only for Hakan Balta to scramble clear when an open goal beckoned.
Turkey squeezed the midfield but Modric managed to find time on the ball to orchestrate Croatia’s attacks.
It was Tottenham’s new signing who crossed to the far post in the 19th minute, with Ivica Olic thudding the crossbar when he had most of Rustu’s goal to aim for. The ball fell to Niko Kranjcar but the Portsmouth midfielder could not tame the ball with his head.
Jeers during the national anthems and a ring of stewards around the pitch hinted at the rivalry between fans, while Tuncay’s elbow on Niko Kovac suggested it between the players.
It earned Tuncay a yellow card and a one-match suspension, and he was furious again with Roberto Rosetti when the Italian referee turned down a penalty appeal after Josip Simunic appeared to impede him in the area.
Turkey got even closer to Stipe Pletikosa’s goal when Mehmet Topal grazed the post with a powerful 35-yard drive seven minutes before the break.
After the restart Arda joined Tuncay in the referee’s book, also earning him a ban.
And just like the first half, Croatia almost pounced on Rustu’s hesitancy. Failing to collect a long ball, Olic beat him to the ball but did not get power on his header.
Rustu was down sharply, however, when Modric released Kranjcar and the midfielder poked towards goal.
Turkey went for a change in attack, replacing London-born Colin Kazim-Richards with Ugur Boral, while Kranjcar went off for Petric as Bilic made his move.
Just after the substitutes were made, Rakitic fired over from a promising position after exchanging passes with Olic. Olic then just headed over when he met a hanging cross.
Srna’s free-kick was tipped over by Rustu and when the veteran blocked another effort from Olic, extra-time was inevitable.
Klasnic thought he had won it when he headed in Modric’s cross after more Rustu hesitation in the 119th minute, but when Semih found the top corner with a deflected drive, the drama of penalties unfolded.
Subs for Croatia: Petric for Kranjcar 64, Klasnic for Olic 97.
Turkey: Senturk for Topal 76, Boral for Kazim-Richards 61, Karadeniz for Nihat 117.
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