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Agony for Turkey as last-gasp Lahm strike seals thrilling 3-2 triumph

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Germany's Bastian Schweinsteiger celebrates scoring his side's first goal during the Euro 2008 semi-final match between Germany and Turkey in Basel last night

Germany's Bastian Schweinsteiger celebrates scoring his side's first goal during the Euro 2008 semi-final match between Germany and Turkey in Basel last night

Germany's Bastian Schweinsteiger celebrates scoring his side's first goal during the Euro 2008 semi-final match between Germany and Turkey in Basel last night

German football as we know it -- the team that endures, the team that comes through, the team that wins-- was born in Switzerland, 60 miles from the stadium where they fought their way desperately through to another final.

"The Miracle of Berne," the victory in the 1954 World Cup final against a Hungarian side that had put eight goals past them in the group stages and who were two up after eight minutes, was the moment German football began to believe in itself.

It was the moment they started to become the team we know now; the one that devotes itself to ensuring that miracles in football do not happen. Last night they so nearly failed.

Extraordinary

Germany were five minutes away from their sixth European Championship final when once more the Turks did something extraordinary.

The full-back, Sabri Sarioglu shot from an extraordinarily tight angle and as Jens Lehmann prepared to gather it, Semih Senturk nipped in to embarrass the goalkeeper and cancel out what should have been a decisive second German goal headed in easily by Miroslav Klose.

Unless the Vatican's bid to stage Euro 2016 is successful, it is hard to think of another tournament where they have so consistently invoked miracles. The Austrian media appealed to the memory of "The Miracle of Cordoba,'' when they eliminated Germany from the 1978 World Cup. They celebrated Turkey's victory over Croatia as "The Miracle of Vienna.'' We seemed about to witness "The Miracle of Basle.''

In the quarter-finals a goal from Senturk had crushed the spirit of Croatia but here all the old German resilience came to the fore.

On the edge of the box and extra time, a one-two saw Phillipp Lahm clear on goal and his was not the finish of a left-back. It was, however, the finish of a German left-back.

St Jakob Park was where the Turkish revival had begun in the driving rain against Switzerland. Then followed the three goals in the final 15 minutes to send the Czech Republic home and the last, desperate kick of the game from Semih Senturk, whose name means "saviour,'' to force a penalty shoot-out with Croatia.

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And yet Fatih Terim began the game by saying he did not believe in miracles.

"I know of three results in football -- win, defeat and a draw; there is no result in football called a miracle,'' he said. His side's progress through these championships, which unlike the Greek triumph in Euro 2004 was not part of a rigid plan but a series of cavalry charges, suggested otherwise.

So did much of this match. And aside from Sabri Sarioglu's flattening of Philipp Lahm, which referee Massimo Busacca somehow judged not to be a penalty, it would be hard to argue the Turks were relying on good fortune.

As a man who once laid out Istanbul's chief of police after an argument, Terim knows how to fight.

Nine players injured or suspended meant his only strategy was to pack the midfield with what was left and attack when he could.

When Ugur Boral drove a rebound off the crossbar between Jens Lehmann's legs after Colin Kazim-Richards had struck the frame of the goal for the second time in 22 minutes, it looked to be working magnificently.

The Germans appeared strangely nervous. Their space was smothered, their passing was as shoddy as it had been when losing to Croatia in the group stages while Klose had no pace to trouble a thoroughly makeshift Turkish defence. Michael Ballack was pounced upon whenever he appeared to find some space.

When Kazim-Richards sent a shot crashing into Lehmann`s crossbar in the opening exchanges, it deserved to go in. Even when Bastian Schweinsteiger equalised, Turkey kept attacking as their midfielder, Hamit Altintop, born in Gelsenkirchen and employed by Bayern Munich, argued beforehand that they had to.

Swerved

Altintop's free-kick, that swerved and dipped suddenly, forcing Lehmann to tip over, was a perfect illustration of an extraordinary night.

The half-time statistics showed Turkey had 11 shots, nine of which were on target, and immediately after the interval, Joachim Low threw on Torsten Frings in an attempt to restore some order to midfield.

When analysing this semi-final, which he confidently expected to be won by Germany, Arsene Wenger said what set the Germans apart was their efficiency in the final third.

The Arsenal manager said that, while Spain may need 14 chances to force a breakthrough, Germany habitually required only five or six.

Schweinsteiger proved Wenger's point. A long ball found Lukas Podolski and when he crossed low into the area, Schweinsteiger slid to meet the ball before Mehmet Topal and Germany, unjustly but perhaps predictably, were level. (©Daily Telegraph, London)


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