Turkey prevail over Croatia in tense game

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/e/euro1.jpg' class='caption'> After two goals in the last two minutes of extra time, Turkey pushed Croatia to the brink, winning the penalty shootout 3-1.

Updated: June 26, 2008 16:05 IST
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Rustu Recber saved a penalty shot from Mladen Petric on Friday to send Turkey into the European Championship semifinals with a 3-1 shootout win over Croatia after a 1-1 draw after extra time.

Arda Turan, Semih Senturk and Hamit Altintop scored for Turkey in the shootout. Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic also missed their shots for Croatia, while Darijo Srna scored the team's only penalty.

After a scoreless 90 minutes of regulation time, Ivan Klasnic gave Croatia the lead with a header in 119th minute. The first player to ever take part at the European Championship after a kidney transplant headed in Modric's cross from close range only 22 minutes after coming on as a substitute.

But before the Croatian fans had stopped celebrating with time almost up, Recber sent a long clearance into Croatia's box and the ball dropped to Semih, whose left-footed shot deflected off defender Robert Kovac and went into the top corner of the net with goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa rooted to the ground.

"It seemed like the match was over, then to concede a goal, then go on to penalties, gave a psychological advantage to the Turks," Croatia coach Slaven Bilic said. "This certainly isn't going to be easy to forget. Not only will we not forget this, this will haunt me for the rest of my life.

"We will probably weep for a few days, but such is life. We will be back."

Turkey will face Germany in the semifinals on Wednesday in Basel, Switzerland. Both Germany and Turkey finished second in their groups in the first round.

Turkey rallied to win its last two matches, beating Switzerland 2-1 and then getting two goals in the final three minutes to beat the Czech Republic and advance to the quarterfinals.

"To lose a lead in such a short space of time would be a blow to any team. I knew they would be feeling it psychologically," Turkey coach Fatih Terim said. "I tell my players never to give up. I tell them that they shouldn't be afraid of losing or conceding goals. This is football. You should never give up until the referee blows the final whistle."

Altintop said he didn't have any time to worry about losing after Klasnic scored.

"We would have time to weep after the referee had blown the final whistle, so we had to play without fear," the Turkey midfielder said. "In football, emotions often don't have time to come into it."

In a low quality match marked by defensive caution at Ernst Happel Stadium, a depleted Turkish team restricted Croatia to few opportunities by pressing in midfield and not allowing its opponent time on the ball.

Croatia striker Ivica Olic hit the crossbar in the 19th minute from close range after a low cross from Modric, but both teams were too often guilty of taking the wrong option in the final third of the field.

Recber, playing for the suspended Volkan Demirel, preserved the scoreline in regulation time when he made an amazing one-handed save from a free kick by Srna in the 83rd. Recber was also the goalkeeper that helped Turkey reach the 2002 World Cup semifinals, where the team lost to eventual champion Brazil.

Both teams made their European Championship debut at Euro 1996 and played each other, with Croatia winning 1-0 with Bilic playing in defense as Turkey finished the tournament in England without scoring a goal.

The only other previous matches between the teams had resulted in draws, 1-1 in 1997 and 2-2 in 2004.

The Turks were missing Emre Gungor (calf), Servet Cetin (hip and knee), Emre Belozoglu (groin), Tumer Metin (groin), while Demirel and defensive midfielder Mehmet Aurelio were both suspended.

Recber was playing his 117th international match, but he failed to come for a through ball in the 11th and only a timely intervention by a defender prevented Srna's pass across goal reaching a teammate.

Eight minutes later, Srna threaded a pass behind the defense and Modric's low, sweeping cross was thundered against the crossbar by Olic from inside the box, and Niko Kranjcar's follow-up header went wide.

Tuncay Sanli, one of eight Turkish players a yellow card away from missing the next round, was booked in the 27th. He was again on the wrong side of the referee's decision 10 minutes later when he was denied a penalty after a collision with defender Josip Simunic in the box.

Arda was booked in the 48th to also be ruled out of the next game, before Turkey almost gave up a goal when Gokhan Zan's backheader was intercepted by Olic and his headed centering ball was hacked away near the line.

A neat turn from Modric and slide pass put Kranjcar in on goal in the 57th, but he had no backlift on his shot and Recber saved down low in one of the few on-target attempts.

Tuncay almost broke the deadlock in extra time after he finished a driving run with a shot that forced Pletikosa to palm the ball away in the 96th.

Emre Asik became the third Turk to be ruled out of the next game after being booked in the 18th minute of extra time as the game looked to be heading for a scoreless draw.

Both teams had reached the quarterfinals once before: Croatia in 1996 and Turkey four years later in Belgium and the Netherlands.

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