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Turkey rallies past Czech Republic, 3-2

June 16, 2008|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

In one of the most unlikely turnarounds in European Championship history, the favored Czech Republic allowed a one-goal lead to evaporate in the last three minutes of their winner-take-all game and lost to Turkey, 3-2, Sunday in rain-soaked Geneva.

The outcome stunned Czech Coach Karel Bruckner, 68, who is retiring after Euro 2008.

"To lose such a match is incredible," Bruckner said. "There were 15 minutes left when the first goal went in [and] they just kept coming until we lost.

"We buckled under the pressure. It is going to take many nights to get over this."

It was Turkey's captain, Spanish-based forward Nihat Kahveci, who put the Turks into a quarterfinal game against Croatia by tying the score in the 87th minute and winning it two minutes later.

Until the last 15 minutes, the Czechs had seemed on their way to the quarterfinals. They had built a 2-0 lead with just over an hour gone on goals by striker Jan Koller -- who also is retiring after scoring 55 goals in 90 games for his country -- and midfielder Jaroslav Plasil.

But Turkey cut the lead in half in the 75th minute when Arda Turan beat goalkeeper Petr Cech with a fierce shot off a cross from Halil Altintop.

There was worse to come for the Chelsea goalkeeper, who also was on the losing side in the European Champions League final in Moscow last month when Manchester United defeated Chelsea.

With the clock winding down, Cech failed to hold onto a high ball sent into his area and Kahveci was on hand to drive it home. Two minutes later, Kahveci blasted an improbable winner from the edge of the penalty area, the ball going in off the underside of the crossbar.

"I send a message to my country and I say to the people, 'Get on the streets, celebrate this victory, profit from this moment,' " Coach Fatih Terim said.

"I said after beating the Swiss that people would remember us. I say that again today."

Turkey's fans will long savor the victory, but for the Czechs, forgetting will take even longer.

"All we can say is we are distraught," defender and captain Tomas Ujfalusi said.

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Jones reported from Los Angeles.

grahame.jones@latimes.com

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