For the first time in Euro 2008, Turkey found out what it is like to get off to an early lead. Also for the first time, they found out what it is like to have that lead snatched away from them.
Right up until the final moment of the match, soccer fans dared to believe that something miraculous would happen-that the plankton would eat the whale.
Sadly for Turkey, harsh reality broke in to spoil the dream, courtesy of Philip Lahm's boot, and at the worst possible time. The irony was that Lahm may have been lucky to be there at the end to kick that goal.
Early in the second half, Lahm committed multiple fouls against Topal, but did not get carded. Indeed, the referee appeared to have a "look the other way" attitude, as he later denied a penalty appeal against Sabri by Lahm (this effectively caused the German bench to go ballistic, but the iron-hearted ref was not swayed one bit by the emotional outburst).
Turkey got off to an amazing start and clearly out-played the Germans for most of the match. This is what makes the result so agonizing. The final was so close; the Turks must have almost been able to taste it.
Five minutes in, Ugur Boral was pressuring the German defense, running the ball in from the left to attempt a cross, but the shot was blocked by Metzelder, who actually sent it toward his own goal-unfortunately putting it well over the bar!
The attack during these opening minutes was relentless. Again and again the Turks took the ball into the German half, with three shots on goal within a span of three minutes.
Then, in the 13th minute, it looked like they would seal the deal against the floundering German team, when Colin Kazim-Richards fired home a mighty shot only to have it devastatingly hit the bar.
Moments later, Ugur Boral was once again poised to strike fear into the Germans, and this time he also struck a goal. The entire Turkish attack force was in overdrive, with Sabri, Kazim-Richards, and Ugur Boral running rings around the opposition and brilliantly assisting each other to set up the shot.
The goal itself was nothing flashy, but it put them on the board. Turkey 1-0 over Germany after 22 minutes. Amazing stuff!
Schweinsteiger was able to equalize four minutes later, then some good defensive work from Gokhan Zan helped ensure that Germany would not go into the half-time break with an advantage.
Lukas Podolski had managed to get clear and set up a cross to Miroslav Klose, but Zan saw the move coming and intervened just in the nick of time.
By half-time, Turkey had fired at goal 15 times (11 of them on target), to a measly three shots from Germany. The score was 1-1, but Turkey definitely had put a shock to the Germans, who so far were only just holding up under the pressure.
All that hard work during the first 45 minutes must have been beginning to punish the Turkish team. The pace of the second half had nowhere near the intensity, even if it did have moments of drama.
The referee made several highly controversial decisions in this half. Failing to penalize Lahm for his blatant foul against Topal, then denying Lahm a penalty of his own, before awarding a totally undeserved yellow card to Semih Senturk.
Miroslav Klose and the German squad took control of the lead when Klose headed the ball past Recber Rustu as he made an attempt to punch the ball away. After viewing the replay on this one it is clear that had Rustu stayed home at net that there would have been an easy save.
Turkey, as usual, didn't let the pressure get to them. Within three minutes, they had leveled things up again. Sabri Sarioglu teased the ball around Philip Lahm and found Senturk, who tipped it into the net in the 86th minute. At this point Tommy Smyth went nuts. I love that accent.
It seemed that once again Turkey was going to follow the script that had seen them get through to the semi-final. With only four minutes remaining in regulation time and the score level at 2-2 (this, in itself, a remarkable achievement), extra time loomed ominously.
Then the unthinkable! On the very last tick of regulation, Philip Lahm made up for all his blunders by engaging in a steamy duet with Hitzelsperger down the left side of the field, outsmarting Rustu Recber to land the ball cleanly in the net.
Although the ref was feeling generous and added three minutes of injury time, the game was effectively over.
Turkey, who had put so much heart into all of their games, had lost to Germany. Notice, that I do not say they were beaten by Germany, because it is perfectly clear that although Germany won the match, they clearly did not "beat" Turkey.
To lose to Germany would have been disappointing anyway. To lose under the circumstances, with Germany being the clearly inferior team, able to snatch a lucky break to steal the victory, was devastating.
Nobody, not even the Germans, should feel good about this result.
Turkey, decimated by injuries and suspensions, had taken on the full-strength German team, outplayed them, and still lost.
For the Germans, this victory will not sit easily. They have shown they are not the team they should be. Can they, on this form, beat either Spain or Russia?
If they play like they did against Turkey then No. If they play to their potential then Yes.
Stay tuned for my recap of the Russia v. Spain game that begins at 2:45 ET on ESPN2.