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Christmas comes early for rescued Turkey

VIENNA (Reuters) - Never-say-die Turkey reached the Euro 2008 last four by snatching a penalty shootout victory against Croatia after saving themselves with an equalizer from the last kick of another nail-biting quarter-final on Friday.

Turkey's players celebrate after their Euro 2008 quarter-final soccer match penalty shoot-out victory over Croatia at the Ernst Happel Stadium in Vienna, June 20, 2008. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

The Turks won 3-1 on penalties having looked out of the tournament a minute before the end of extra time when Ivan Klasnic put Croatia 1-0 ahead following a goalless 90 minutes.

Instead, Semih Senturk blasted an equalizer in the last seconds of an absorbing match to take it to the dreaded penalty shootout where a still shell-shocked Croatia missed three times out of four attempts.

The masses of noisy Croat fans who had been drinking Vienna dry during the day suddenly fell silent and the much smaller contingent of ecstatic Turkey supporters could not believe their eyes.

After the match, Vienna police reported some trouble near Vienna city centre. Scuffles broke out and bottles were thrown and cars damaged, a police spokesman said.

They were not able immediately to confirm numbers of any arrests other than three before midnight.

The Turks, who also reached the World Cup last four in 2002, now face Germany in the first semi-final in Basel on Wednesday.

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Croatia coach Slaven Bilic was humble in defeat and summed up the mood after the latest in a string of exciting games at the three-week long tournament in Austria and Switzerland.

“I want to congratulate both teams for a great game of football,” he said. “This match shows why it’s the most dramatic and most popular game in the world.”


Bilic had danced down the touchline with delight after substitute Klasnic’s header, so sure was he that his team had won with what was a late, late goal by any standards.

Half an hour later he was comforting his distraught players, wondering how they had managed to lose.

He had been warned, however, that this Turkish side do not know when they are beaten.

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Turkey had reached the last eight by coming back from 2-0 down to beat Czech Republic 3-2 with three goals in the last 15 minutes in their final group game.

Germany went through on Thursday after another thrilling game in the first quarter-final in Basel, beating Portugal 3-2.


Like the Croats must now do on Saturday, the Portuguese headed home earlier with their heads held high after impressing everyone with their dynamic play.

Around 500 Portuguese fans, the majority expatriates living in Switzerland, gave the squad a rousing farewell at their Neuchatel hotel.

The Dutch, who face Russia in the third quarter-final in Basel on Saturday, have also left their mark on Switzerland’s capital Berne.

Their army of fans which flooded the city for their three group matches created memories of a sea of orange which the reserved locals will never forget.

The city mayor wants to give the Dutch party and their fans some of the Stade de Suisse turf that is being replaced as a free gesture of thanks for the fantastic atmosphere they generated.

However, Russia coach Guus Hiddink, a Dutchman who coached his native land to the 1998 World Cup semi-finals, is ready to burst the festive mood.

“When I’m a traitor, I like to be a very good traitor,” he said.

Switzerland’s national railway may not want the Dutch sticking around much longer, either.

It has told its workers to stop using their normal orange reflective vests and switch to yellow ones after confused Dutch soccer fans started following them on to the tracks.

Additional reporting by Iain Rogers, Alex Hudson, Mark Ledsom, Simon Baskett, Rex Gowar, Editing by Jon Bramley