Euro 2008 Shocker Wild Celebrations as Turkey Advances

Once again, Turkey managed to come through in the final seconds of a match -- this time on Friday night against Croatia. Turkish fans went nuts, but many are now wondering what might happen when Turkey meets Germany in its next match.


It was 119 minutes of boredom. Croatia and Turkey, on the pitch in Vienna for their knock-out match in the Euro 2008 football championships, seemed uninspired. Back and forth went the ball, with only very few decent shots on goal.

But then came the few minutes that will go down in the history of European football. Croatia was finally able to put the ball in the net on a cross to the head of Ivan Klasnic. Croatian fans went wild -- with just a minute left on the clock, victory was assured.

Or was it? Turkey had been in this position before. The team had come back against Switzerland in its second group match, and in the team's last group match against the Czech Republic last Sunday, the Turks were down by two goals with just 15 minutes to play. No matter. Three quick goals, the last coming in the 89th minute, sent Turkey on to its fateful match-up with Croatia.

And the fairy tale for the Turks continued. Two minutes into injury time, in the very final seconds of extra time, the Turkish striker Semih Sentürk latched onto a ball just inside the penalty area and blasted it past the Croatian keeper. In the penalty shootout that immediately followed, the Croats were rattled, pushing two shots past the goal with the Turkish keeper saving one.

The Turks, amazingly, were through. And across Germany, what just minutes before had felt like a funeral for the Turkish team erupted into frenetic celebration.

Thousands of fans streamed onto Berlin's Kurfürstendamm -- this year's preferred site for football celebration. Cars rolled through with flags waving and fans screaming. All through Kreuzberg, the Berlin neighborhood that many with Turkish backgrounds call home, the party raged into the night with firecrackers piercing the night air. Some 50,000 people took to the streets. "This is like the first of May and New Years rolled into one," said one passer-by.

Similar scenes played out in cities across Germany as Turkish fans celebrated a victory that few had expected. While there were some minor incidents, the party was largely peaceful.

But the question on everyone's mind this weekend is: What next? Turkey's victory means that the team's next game will be against Germany in the semi-finals. The two teams haven't met in a major tournament since the 1954 World Cup, when they went head-to-head twice. Germany won both games with a combined score of 11-3.

This time, though, destiny seems to be smiling on the Turks. But no matter who wins, many in Germany are already wondering if the celebrations after the match will be as peaceful as they have been to date. Germany plays host to millions of Turks and people with Turkish background. And judging by the hundreds of thousands partying in the streets of Germany on Friday night, many of them are football fanatics.

Just like the Germans.

cgh/ddp/dpa

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