St. Jakob-Park, Basel, 25.06.2008
Schweinsteiger 26., Klose 79., Lahm 90. / Uğur Boral 22., Semih Şentürk 86.
The German squad would remain in Basel following their thrilling 3-2 quarter-final victory over Portugal, where they would face the suprise team of the tournament – Turkey. The Mannschaft would have probably been mentally preparing themselves for a last-four repeat of their first-phase encounter with Croatia, but after a dramatic quarter-final that burst into life only in the dying moments of extra time Fatih Terim’s side had followed a stunning first-phase comeback against the Czech Republic to beat the Croats on penalties after scoring an almost miraculous equaliser with the very last kick of the match.
Although Turkey had been regular opponents for the Germans during both World Cup and Euro qualifying programmes – where they had met no fewer than eight times in eighteen years – it would be their first meeting at a major tournament finals since Germany’s 7-2 victory during the 1954 World Cup, also held in Switzerland. While the Mannschaft had an excellent overall record over their semi-final opposition, it was actually the Turks that would have the better recent record, having won two and drawn one of the last three games played between the two sides.
The Mannschaft had suffered no ill-effects during their quarter-final, and Joachim Löw was able to name the same eleven that had started against the Portuguese. The same couldn’t be said of the Turkish side, as Fatih Terim found himself facing a similar tide of injuries and suspensions as Berti Vogts had done with the German side at Euro 1996. The Turks would have four key players out injured and further four serving suspensions, and Terim knew that it would take little short of a miracle to overcome a stable German side. However, given what had taken place during their previous matches nobody would have bet against the Turks pulling off another surprise.
Home-based referee Massimo Busacca would lead the sides out on what was a damp and humid evening in northern Switzerland, with a crowd of just under forty-thousand in attendance. Having served out his one-match sentence, the Nationaltrainer would be back on the touchline in the German dugout; both sides would have a familiar look them, with Germany in their traditional Schwarz und Weiß and the Turks in all red.
Joachim Löw’s side would start brightly, dominating possession in the opening five minutes with the Turks struggling to get a touch of the ball. Fatih Terim’s side would start to make their presence felt however, and would deliver a couple of dangerous-looking balls into the German box as they started to find their feet.
With Turkey quickly gaining confidence the Germans would look to take a more conservative approach, but there would be more than the one lazy pass and lapse in concentration. With the Mannschaft looking slightly disorientated they would almost be caught cold as English-born Colin Kazim-Richards smacked a well-timed shot against the crossbar, and with twenty minutes gone the outsiders would be on top.
With the Germans looking all at sea and getting increasingly frustrated, it wouldn’t be long until the inevitable happened – and when it did the comedy script could not have been written any better. Turkey would win a throw-in out on the right, and a cross from Sabri Sarıoğlu would see Kazim-Richards slide in to shoot, slicing the ball in an awkward arc over Lehmann and onto the crossbar. With the German keeper struggling, Uğur Boral would coolly stab the ball past the floundering ‘keeper.
Turkey would continue to threaten the German goal with Semih and Mehmet Aurélio creating half-chances, but against the run of play the Mannschaft would be right back in the contest just four minutes later. Once again it would be the Poldi and Schweini show, with the young winger charging down the left and dancing past Sabri before drilling a low cross back into the Turkish box for Schweinsteiger to execute the deftest of finishes with the outside of his right foot past ‘keeper Rüştü Reçber.
The revitalised Bastian Schweinsteiger is on the scoresheet again with the most delicate of finishes
Schweinsteiger’s goal would re-energise Jogi Löw’s side, and with Turkey continuing to threaten the game would turn into a genuine end-to-end contest with both defences looking more than suspect. Lehmann would almost misjudge a looping free-kick from Hamit Altıntop before tipping it over the bar, and at the other end Thomas Hitzlsperger would release the free-running Podolski, only to see the winger blast the ball over the target with the unmarked Klose waiting free in the centre.
A stinging free-kick from Topal would force Lehmann into another sharp reaction save at his near post, and if things were not going badly enough for the Germans Simon Rolfes would end up on the worse end of a clash of heads with Ayhan Akman. With the the bloodied Rolfes being treated on the touchline Löw’s side would find themselves down to ten men, and with the Turks now smelling blood they would continue to create chances. Altıntop would be foiled by Arne Friedrich at the edge of the penalty area, and moments later Ayhan would send a well-struck drive just over the target.
A groggy-looking Rolfes would return to the fray, and when the Swiss referee blew for half-time the German team couldn’t get off the pitch fast enough. It had been an exciting forty-five minutes of football for the neutral, but many Germany supporters found helf felt that their nerves had been well and truly shredded.
The second half would see Rolfes replaced by Torsten Frings, and despite not being fully fit with his injured rib the Werder Bremen midfielder would have hoped to shore up his side’s flagging defensive midfield. During the first half, skipper Michael Ballack had been conspicuous by his absence. With their depleted squad and nothing to lose Turkey would continue in much the same vein, throwing bodies forward and hoping to exploit any errors from the shaky German defence.
With fifty minutes played Philipp Lahm would be brought down just inside the box by Sabri, but the Swiss referee would just wave play on. Lahm would be perplexed, Löw would be livid, but the score would remain at 1-1. As the game approach the hour mark the massive electrical storms raging across much of central Europe would knock out the television transmission, and the BBC would switch to radio coverage. It wouldn’t just be a few television sets: according to later reports, the weather in Vienna would result in the entire network being out of commission.
Pictures would return just after the hour, but after some ten minutes would disappear again. The message of apology would reappear with the commentary from Radio Five Live, and during this time the hitherto inconspicuous Miroslav Klose would get on the end of Lahm’s cross to beat the flailing Rüştü and head the Mannschaft back in front.
As Europe suffered an electrical blackout, Turkish ‘keeper Rüştü Reçber would have one of his own as Klose scores Germany’s second
Germany would have just over ten minutes to hold out against a Turkish side that was throwing everything at them, and would manage to hold out until four minutes from the end of the ninety minutes – when the men in red would score yet another late miracle goal. The goal from Semih would be the result of yet another catalogue of German defensive errors: first Lahm would be completely skinned by Sabri, and the Turkish right-back’s low cross into the danger zone would be stabbed home by Semih with Lehmann scrabbling around like a blind man at his near post.
With the game heading inexorably towards extra time, there would be yet another twist in what had been a truly bizarre evening in Basel. picking up a wide ball from Hitzlsperger out on the left, Lahm would drift inside, evading a mistimed challenge from Kazim-Richards before playing a neat return pass inside. With the German left-back continuing his run into the Turkish box, the man known as “Der Hammer” would deliver the perfect slide-rule pass. Lahm would then do the rest, collecting the ball brilliantly before blasting it with his right foot between the advancing Rüştü and the near post.
With extra time looming, Philipp Lahm executes the perfect finish to seal the Mannschaft’s place in the final
Turkey had extracted performed miracles right at the death against both the Czech Republic and Croatia, but here they would have the same trick pulled on them. Lahm had more than made up for his defensive error just minutes earlier, and Germany would be back in front. Turkey would win a free-kick right at the death to keep German hearts in mouths, but substitute Tümer Metin would send the ball high and not particularly handsomely over the bar.
It had been the Mannschaft’s worst performance by far in the tournament, and their brave opponents could genuinely consider themselves unlucky to have not won the game. Philipp Lahm’s late winner would have been good enough to grace any great semi-final, but it would be the highlight of an exciting but error-ridden match that had been littered with defensive mistakes from both sides and some extraordinary howlers from both goalkeepers.
Germany would be through to the final in Vienna to face either Spain or Russia, and knew that they would have to play a whole lot better to be in with any chance of winning a record-extending fourth European Championship title.
Germany: Lehmann – Friedrich, Mertesacker, Metzelder, Lahm – Rolfes (46. Frings), Hitzlsperger – Schweinsteiger, Ballack (c), Podolski – Klose (90. Jansen)
Turkey: Rüştü Reçber – Sabri Sarıoğlu, Gökhan Zan, Mehmet Topal, Hakan Balta – Mehmet Aurélio – Kazim-Richards (90. Tümer Metin), Hamit Altıntop, Ayhan Akman (81. Mevlüt Erdinç), Uğur Boral (84. Gökdeniz Karadeniz) – Semih Şentürk
Referee: Massimo Busacca (Switzerland)
Assistants: Matthias Arnet (Switzerland), Stéphane Cuhat (Switzerland)
Fourth Official: Peter Fröjdfeldt (Sweden)
Yellow Cards: – / Semih Şentürk
Red Cards: – / –