Terim’s Flammable Lions : Turkey at Euro 08

Faith Terim Turkey Euro 08

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This image is almost 15 years old and it was taken in Alanya, Turkey. The place is a ‘summer town’, attracting a lot of visitors for touristic purposes. That night, public viewings were in place for a special gathering. Not just in Turkey’s summer resorts; but everywhere, which holds a mix of Turkish & German populations. A group of locals can be seen while rubbing one in the eye of some visiting Germans.

The date’s occasion was Turkey’s golden generation’s last stand and it’s the end of 2008’s June, 25th to be exact.

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It was when these men once again came agonizingly close to a shot for triumph through an extremely dangerous combination. A group that was full of personalities that can cause a spark to fly, with the talent to back it; and the ultimate accelerator, Fatih Terim.

Macho’s Touch

After 02’s extreme overachievers under Şenol Güneş and the short tenure of Ersun Yanal, the duty called the Godfather of Turkish Football’ for the second time in 2005’s summer.

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Since the end of his first term with the national team in the summer of 96′, Terim went on to win the only international silverware in the nation’s club history with Galatasaray four years later and through this magnificent achievement, his talents were needed in Italy. His short time in ‘The Boot’ consisted of only, a rather chaotic fifteen months, featuring two separate clubs.

He looked like he was having a hard time adjusting to life in a new environment while managing Fiorentina. But it was the great city of Milano, that created the impression of maybe Terim was trying to gulp a slightly bigger one than he should.

Andrea Pirlo, offered insights from Terim’s bizarre time in A.C Milan, in his biography, ‘I Think, Therefore I Play”. ‘La Regista’ and his three-month ‘substitute teacher’ actually conducted similar duties on the pitch. Since, Terim spent his ecstatic player career as a ‘libero’. Yet apparently, this wasn’t enough to act as an icebreaker. Italian’s words carried stones that may hurt. Terim’s tactical meetings weren’t the best at handing clear instructions to the personnel, as Pirlo said

“… Through halfway of the meeting, tactical board was already a ‘chaotic’ intersection of lines & circles, where it’s impossible for one to understand his duty. Except the goalkeeper”. 

His mention of the great John Travolta painted a near-perfect picture, for those who didn’t get to witness Terim’s majestic ‘charisma’.

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‘A Knife Has Two Sides’

After nine years since the end of his first term, Terim’s services seemed in favour again. Turkey didn’t want another disappointment after missing out on EURO 04′. Terim’s job was, to build something, picking up the remains from Yanal’s underwhelming performance in the qualifiers. Terim managed to carve out a two-legged playoff final for the final spot in the World Cup. ‘Köbi Kuhn’s Switzerland’ was the final worry.

Turkey travelled to Switzerland and returned home with a ‘2-0’ loss. They fell victim to the away goals and were defeated on aggregate, despite a ‘4-2’ win on the home ground.

180 minutes, 8 goals and two national anthem boos later, the cauldron which held all of the “loud and testosterone-filled antics” of Terim finally toppled over with the final whistle.

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Swiss’ players turning to each other to celebrate their world cup ticket was the last straw. ‘Şükrü Saraçoğlu Stadium’ exploded to rumbles. Turkish players chased their opponent with flying kicks into the dressing room while numerous objects flew to the pitch. Videos of legendary ex-footballer turned coach, Mehmet ‘Şifo’ Özdilek, tripping up a Swiss player gained quite a lot of views.

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Terim surprisingly wasn’t due to any fines, but Turkey was to play their next six home games abroad, in echoing empty stadiums. FIFA also suspended Alpay Özalan & Emre Belözoğlu for six games.

Sepp Blatter, FIFA president at the time, being Swiss, didn’t help the narrative around the incident either.

It was a rather less chaotic two years, as Turkey earned the chance to participate in EURO 08′ finals, after missing out on previous two major international tournaments. As the event was the doorway to redemption, the draw made the stakes of winning much sweeter.

Turkey was drawn into Group A; with 2004’s finalists Portugal, Czech Republic and last but not least, the hosts… Switzerland. As they lost 2-0 to Portugal in the first game of the group stage, their hopes of qualifying heavily relied on their last two games.

Redemption or Revenge

All the players that were present in both squads – pre-06′ and EURO 08′ – dreamed of this moment. They would face Switzerland again after the disappointment and this time, it would pan out entirely differently.

Hosts’ supporters filled the stadium and booed every action that Turkey personnel participated on the pitch or on the sidelines. A familiar face put Switzerland in the driver’s seat at the 32nd minute. It was no one other than Hakan Yakın, a Switzerland international with Turkish origins. He chose not to lift his arms in the air with joy out of respect. But unfortunately, this kind deed failed to provide any relief.

The Half-time whistle left Terim with an urgency to intervene. Losing this game would mean that they would call it an ‘early night’ and pack their bags. Turkey returned to the pitch with two changes in personnel. Gökdeniz Karadeniz and Tümer Metin were pulled to the bench, for the services of Mehmet Topal & Semih Şentürk.


Lift-up was imminent. It was 12 minutes after the start of the second half when the substitute Şentürk scored a towering header at the end of Nihat Kahveci’s cross. It was Switzerland’s tournament to host. But the roar that equalizer conjured from the stands, didn’t feel like ‘home’.

Hosts seemed like they would get away with a draw, but ‘The Golden Boy’ thought otherwise. Two minutes into the additional time, a 21-year-old Arda Turan managed to deflect his effort into Diego Benaglio’s goal from outside of the box.

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As they lost to the Czech Republic in the first game of the group, another defeat would mean elimination from the tournament for the hosts. Tries to avoid that heartbreak only resulted in frustration and Turkey was able to achieve their first victory of the tournament.

After the final whistle, Turkey’s bench erupted onto the pitch and their celebration felt like it meant more than just ‘3 points’. The joy that celebrations possessed, hinted that it was more of a ‘revenge’ rather than sole redemption.

Do or Die

Czechia was the last obstacle that stood between Turkey and the knockout stages. Both teams were with 3 points. It suggested that the side that won that game would progress alongside Portugal.

The 62nd minute stroked under heavy rain and Jaroslav Plašil’s strike was the second blow after Jan Koller’s header, pulling Czechia 2-0 up. The Swiss seem to remember the foe and via their lent support, the Czechs were the only evident winners. 

“2-0 is the most dangerous of leads.” is an overused cliché, that any football fan heard at some point in their spectating journey. The Czechs would refer to that particular incident as the Csaplár’s Trap”, after coach turned commentator Josef Csaplár, who was an admirer of the saying. At least they know was, that ‘trap’ was about to be spoken into existence.

It started in the 75th minute when Turan fired Hamit Altıntop’s low cutback into the net and the difference was cut to one.


Still, any worry was not to be found in Czech faces as they encouraged each other with rounds of applause. After all, who could say that they had Petr Čech in goal?

After running up second with Chelsea in Premier League and losing a Champions League final via PK shootout, both to Manchester United, it was not difficult to say that the man between the sticks wasn’t having the best time of his life. But these ‘bad times’ would quickly turn into stuff straight out of a nightmare.

They fared down well until the 87th minute. Until then, Altıntop ‘hail mary’ed’ a lob cross to Czechia’s box and well…

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A mistake which’s so amateur, that you didn’t expect a player of Čech’s stature would commit. The Czech superstar chose to claim the high cross rather than punching it away. When he dropped the ball right onto the Kahveci’s feet under heavy rain, the Turkish striker happily tapped the ball into the empty net to equalize.

Laplas’ Demon

A legend of Turkish football, Rıdvan Dilmen – a.k.a ‘The Demon – was present in the commentary booth. His colleague in the media urged him on to share his thoughts about the possibility of a penalty shootout. But he didn’t entertain the question at all and responded with a single sentence :

“There’ll be no penalties.”

Only two minutes later he’d have earned his nickname by full.

Altıntop played a through ball behind the scattered Czech defence in the 89th minute and left Kahveci 1 on 1 with Čech. Then Kahveci pulled a finish so outrageous that not just Čech, but no goalkeeper in the world would not even dare to try and save.

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Only three minutes later, chaos would’ve been unleashed again.

After somehow clearing the danger in their box after Volkan Demirel misjudged and came out witheringly, Turkey’s defenders were about to share a hug. Their celebration was cut short by the referee Peter Fröjdfeldt. The Swede didn’t hesitate to pull a straight red for goalkeeper Demirel for pushing Jan Koller to the ground, as the 6’7” striker was more than happy to take a dive.

Rıdvan Dilmen shouted from his box, “We don’t have any substitutions left !” and gave a meme-ish moment to us, young Turkish football fans we’ll retrospect, as long as we’ll be around to celebrate…

Tuncay Şanlı went on to pick up the gloves. As he went on to take his place between the sticks, his hands were towards heaven, literally.

Eventually, his prayers were answered and Turkey managed to hold on to their inspiring comeback.

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Turkey finished their group with 6 points; level with the group leader Portugal, only to drop to 2nd place on goal difference.

Top 8

The next match-up would be against the leaders of Group B in the quarter-finals. Surprisingly, Croatia claimed the leadership seat among Poland, co-hosts Austria and Germany. Turkey didn’t win their group but they seemed to get a favourable draw, compared to the leaders Portugal who went on to face Germany.

For 90 minutes deadlock stood perfectly still. When it seemed like the nets will only be touched by the penalty kicks, Turkey kept their streak of conceding first. Suspended Volkan Demirel’s backup was the 35-year-old Rüştü Reçber. After 119 minutes and a couple of wonder saves later, he illogically left his goal to clear a loose ball; which Luka Modric got to before Reçber. Modric’s cross was headed in by Ivan Klasnić into Turkey’s open goal.

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Lack of time required that ‘Terim’s Lions’ to pull something out of ‘fire’.


Turkey started to smash Croatia’s box, right after the goal. Şentürk, took a swing at the remains of Reçber’s long kick, in search of something bold. In the blink of an eye, his left-footed half volley flew onto the roof of Stipe Pletikosa.

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As the whistle declared the end of extra time, Turkey once again managed to somehow produce a fitting response to a blow. Teams rallied their last strength for the penalty shoot-out and the late sinner Reçber, found his path to forgiveness.

For Croatia, Darijo Srna was the only scorer out of the four. Mladen Petrić got his kick saved. Ivan Rakitić (20) and Luka Modrić were both victims of Reçber’s mind games, as the veteran goalkeeper didn’t have a shot to save in both of the kicks.

Turkey scored all three of their kicks.

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‘Fight Fire with Fire’

Turkey had come 90 minutes away to the final by tip-toeing their way around an obstinate force. Though it’s not difficult for one to fool thyself, believing that if they would fly close to the Sun and wouldn’t get burned.

They had played four games up to this point and they were yet to score first in any of them. But the team that had to pull ludicrous comebacks, managed to strike first.

Uğur Boral put the ball past Jens Lehmann on the returns of Colin ‘Kazım’ Richards’ shot and put Turkey one up. But not being used to the occasion of being in the driver’s seat, they failed to carry the weight of the instance. Turkey’s lead only lasted four minutes, until Bastian Schweinsteiger equalized for Germany in the 26th minute.

The game seemed to stand still for a long period until Turkey suffered from an individual mistake again. Reçber left his post in the 79th minute to clear Philipp Lahm’s high cross. But he misjudged and as he was caught in ‘no man’s land’, Miroslav Klose was there to pounce. Now they’d gone up behind again and immediately, it seemed like they felt more comfortable somehow.

Only seven minutes later, Sabri Sarıoğlu dazed Lahm as he ran circles around the German and Şentürk was at the end of his low, drilled cross. Another period of extra time seemed imminent.

Yet their story wasn’t meant to go one step further, unfortunately. At the 90th minute, Lahm managed to set foot into Turkey’s box, with the intention that Turks could wrap their mind around easily… ‘Revenge’.

Germany’s skipper put the ball past Reçber and picked apart millions of stargazing Turks’ hearts.

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Furrier’s Shop

Turkey suffered a narrow defeat and lost that game 3 to 2. Yet it was more than enough to leave them feeling like they’d been just demolished.

St. Jakob Park of Basel is not far, less than 100 kilometres to Bern, where this story started. Turkey was denied the chance to participate in 06’s World Cup, due to a poor 90 minutes in Wankdorf Stadium. It hurt, that the tables haven’t turned. ‘The land of Alps’ disappointingly didn’t turn out to be the stuff, which dreams are made of.