Germany vs. Turkey
The Turks were reeling from injuries and suspensions that Fatih Terrim joked that he would have to play a reserve goalkeeper to make up the numbers – a point many media outlets took literally (N.B. Mr. Redknapp, this is correct usage of the word). Nihat, the explosive little striker was ruled out of the tournament with a thigh injury, but his replacement Semih Senturk looks to be a big game player scoring vital equalizers against co-hosts Switzerland and that last minute effort against the delightful Croatians. The Turkish side has a great belief but the number of set-backs may have weakened their psychological state. In contrast, complacency may have crept into the German side, as it did against Croatia, but following consultation with the senior players, coach Joachim Low changed to a 4-5-1 allowing Ballack to thrive in his favoured role.
Turkey may have been written off but as this wonderful tournament shows, nothing is certain. Germany started confidently as they passed the ball around in the Turkish half, as the red shirts couldn’t roam into the German half in the opening minutes. Topal and Zan seemed uncertain but it wasn’t important as Kazim, the naturalised Turk took an early shot, which was straight at Jens Lehmann. Soon after, the English-born youngster crossed in a ball that was poorly cleared by Lahm as Altintop, his Bayern Munich team-mate (several of the Turks ply their trade in Germany) stole in and shot but Lehmann blocked. The Turks had settled and continued their onslaught as they kept possession and worked the angles with Sabri, the right-back swinging the ball back to the Brazilian born Aurelio, who chipped a pass into the box, which fell by the by-line. The ball was laid back to Kazim, who rattled the bar with his fierce shot.
Terrim’s side was wonderful to watch with a stunning work ethic that dominated Germany, who missed the tempo-setting Torsten Frings, apparently still not fit to start having suffered a fractured rib. A simple cross was worked cleverly from the right flank and reached Kazim, whose shot looped up onto the bar. Boral, equally industrious in his running bundled the rebound through the legs of Lehmann, who seemed helpless, perhaps expecting a harder shot, but no doubt the press was rejoicing at the chance to knock down the controversial goalkeeper.
Soon after Semih had his shot from the edge of the box block for a corner that Aurelio almost nodded into the net in a period of sheer dominance. But the stereotype of the Germans came through as they levelled with their first meaningful chance. Podolski crossed from the left to the near post, where Schweinsteiger added the deftest of touches to lift the ball into the net (after ghosting in from the right with a clever run), leaving the veteran Rustu helpless. Topal tried to block but couldn’t make up the ground.
Altintop was very influential in his preferred central role, as his overhit free-kick fooled Lehmann, who managed to stretch out an arm and palm the ball over for a corner. The Bayern playmaker then made a darting run as he continued to control the pace of Turkey’s game. At the other end, Hitzelsperger played in Podolski down the left flank, with Sabri, the full-back nowhere to be found. Klose ran at ‘break-neck’ speed to support him but his club team-mate, having not seen his run, elected to shoot. In another instance, he spread the play wide to Kazim, whose end product was for once lacking as he completely miscalculated his cross and whacked it into the stands. The former Brighton player won a free-kick after another tussle in what was becoming an intriguing battle with Lahm down the Turkish right flank. Lehmann, still of Arsenal until July 1st, made a punch from Boral’s fierce free-kick (from an acute angle), as he partially redeemed himself for his earlier error. Soon after, this highly eventful game took an ugly turn after a clash of heads between Rolfes and Akman, with the former bleeding from a nasty cut.
Friedrich then made a last-ditch, desperate poke at the ball as Altintop was played in after a clever give-and-go with the striker Semih as the static defence was once more exploited. The full-back was at fault like Lehmann for the opening goal as he failed to pick up his man Boral. The half ended with Joachim Low the more worried of the two coaches. He responded by taking a huge risk in bringing on Frings, who was still recovering from his rib injury but the difference was immediately evident as the Germans seemed to press harder. It seemed fine that an Austrian was taking charge of a semi-final but if he wasn’t good enough under the immense pressure, then why appoint him? He bottled a major decision as he denied Germany a penalty (or even a free-kick) as Sabri clattered into Lahm on the edge of the box. The referee tried to stop the boos by booking Semih for a challenge but the question as to why UEFA didn’t appoint the best referees must have surely risen in the minds of some of the fans and the coaches.
One disappointment was the BBC, as they still persisted with John Motson. The man so familiar with the sheepskin coat first mistook Boral for Topal and mentioning Kazim when Semih had the ball. The veteran man had problems distinguishing David Silva and Marcos Senna in the fourth quarter final so this issue was nothing new. A power failure, which affected all television outlets cut the picture showed the difference in the quality of commentating between 5live and BBC One, with Chris Waddle surpassing Mark Lawrenson in every aspect of being a summariser. It’s time to pass the mantle to another commentating team.
Germany were more prominent but the wing play of Turkey still caused immense problems for the opposition defence. Kazim made a wonderful turn from two defenders and appeared to have his shirt pulled by Lahm in the box, but the manner in which he fell meant the claim was waived away. On the other flank Boral ran onto a lofted pass and cut inside Friedrich, who was having a poor game like the rest of his defence. The Turkish winger then shot rather than pick a team-mate, with his effort collected by Lehmann, at the first time of asking. Just as when the game seemed find a new consistency in terms of television coverage, first we lost coverage and then Klose headed in, as Rustu ran out when there was no need) once more disturbing the experience of watching the match. What was encouraging is that the BBC seemed to stick with 5live coverage, which was much more impressive, especially as it included Alan Green commentating in a game with no Liverpool presence.
Turkey just don’t know when they’re beaten do they? Senturk proved his burgeoning reputation as a big game player by stealing in at the near post from Sabri’s cross as Lehmann waited to gather. Sabri was typical of Turkey, poor defensively, great in an attacking sense. The thick-skinned Stuttgart signing seemed most likely bear the brunt of any criticism in the morning papers, but Lahm who let Sabri in down his side atoned for his error in a fine move from the left flank and he swept home confidently from Hitzelsperger’s through ball, as Germany seemed to steal the win in an unconvincing performance. Kazim appeared to turn his knee when tracking Lahm’s run as Metin came on in the dying stages. His only contribution was to fire over a free-kick, their last chance as referee Massimo Busacca blew the final whistle.
As I previously wrote on a previous post, the semi-finals and the final will be the making of this tournament and so far it is adhering to the call, in this brilliant end to the first semi final. While Germany stumbled into the final, it is the brave losers that this tournament willl remember, at least for a while. The Dutch also delighted us, but what this tournament needs is a side playing fine, technical football to triumph. On current evidence, we need one of Spain and Russia to lift the Henri Delauney trophy. But knowing the Germans and their winning mentality, a fourth win is very, very likely.
Germany 3 – 2 Turkey FT