Full time: A pulse-pounding finish to a thrilling semifinal -- punctuated intermittently by no less than three TV broadcast outages -- has made for another compelling and occasionally outrageous afternoon of football at the European Championships. Last week, SI.com's Grant Wahl called Euro 2008 the best major tournament since the 1986 World Cup. I thought his claim was slightly premature at the time, given the way exciting group stages often give way to conservative play in the knockout rounds as the stakes get higher. But it turns out his superlative was spot on. And if tomorrow's semifinal and the final live up to the standard set by the first 29 games of this year's tournament, we could be looking at a true all-timer by Sunday night.
90': GOAL! Philip Lahm has traded his goat horns for hero's laurels within a five-minute span, driving home a last-minute winner to (presumably) put the Germans through to the final of Euro 2008. Just minutes after Lahm was undressed on the Turkey equalizer, the Bayern Munich defender slotted home the winner past Rustu. Could the Turks possibly have one more miracle left in them?
86': GOAL! We're on shaky ground amid of the most underwhelming sports broadcasts in recent memory, but we can confirm Semih Senturk has equalized for the Turks. The Fenerbahce striker redirected an entry pass just feet in front Germany's Jens Lehmann. Incredible. Turkey reached the semifinal on three consecutive come-from-behind victories -- could today possibly be the fourth?
79': GOAL! Striker Miroslav Klose, the Golden Ball winner at the 2006 World Cup, has just scored to put Germany ahead. But we're only taking Tommy Smyth's word for it, as a second poorly timed TV outage has left millions of slack-jawed American viewers scratching their heads. They're saying lightning hit a television tower in the area. (A question: How long until we'll be able to see a highlight of the Klose's goal?)
75': Approaching 15 minutes from full time, you have to expect Germany coach Joachim Low to make use of his second substitution sometime soon.
73': Thomas Hitzlsperger rockets a speculative left-footed shot which soars high above Turkish goalkeeper Recber Rustu. Germany's shortage of close-range chances must be concerning their supporters by now.
68': Turkey squares up for a corner -- their sixth of the night! -- but comes away with nothing. Germany's midfield has shown considerable improvement since halftime, perhaps bolstered by the Frings substitution. Turkey hasn't managed to sustain the same offensive momentum they imposed on the Germans during the first 45 minutes.
65': Technical difficulties with the TV broadcast just gave American viewers a bonus dose of Julie Foudy and Tommy Smyth for an agonizing five-minute stretch. We're still even at 1-1 with Germany holding possession and organizing an attack in Turkey's third.
57': Hamit Altintop takes down Ballack just 25 yards from the goal. But the Chelsea midfielder squanders a golden opportunity, driving the free kick directly into the Turkey wall.
51': The first talking point of the second half occurs when Philip Lahm gets taken down just inside the perimeter of the box by Turkey's Sabri Sarioglu. Swiss referee Massimo Busacca gets an earful from Michael Ballack after the no-call. ESPN's Andy Gray insists it was a foul and should have been a penalty. I agree.
50': Kazim Kazim brings the ball to the edge of the box as the Turks organize yet another attack. They come away without a shot on goal, but it's the Turks again forcing the action. Kazim's pace has been astounding.
46': We have the first substitution of the game as the second half gets underway, with Torsten Frings coming on for the wounded Simon Rolfes in the German midfield. It will be interesting to see whether Turkey's lack of flexibility with substitutions has a negative impact as the second half presses forward. But so far, the Crescent Stars bear no resemblance to doomed team we've heard about since Friday.
Halftime: Who would have expected this kind of audacious performance from the personnel-strapped Turks? Fatih Terim's side pressured the Germans from the opening whistle, generating 11 shots (and eight shots on goal!). Meanwhile, the Germans have appeared somewhat uninspired and disorganized on offense, and they're truly fortunate to be level through 45 minutes.
45': ...or maybe not, as Rolfes trots back onto the pitch with a heavy bandage on his forehead.
44': On the Germany sidelines, it appears Low is preparing a substitute for the fallen Rolfes...
41': A miserable first touch by Kazim Kazim just inside the box spoils another wonderful chance for Turkey. The Fenerbahce striker knows he should have done better there.
40': German midfielder Simon Rolfes just took a wicked bump to the dome, opening up a huge gash on the left side of his forehead. The German trainers are working to close the wound on the sidelines.
38': A great chance here for Turkey on a set piece just outside the area with Ugur Boral taking ... and his well-struck shot rockets directly off the gloves of Lehmann and deflects 30 yards downfield.
34': Turkey's overbearing pressure almost backfires with disastrous results, as horrible marking gives Lukas Podolski a 40-yard run on goal with nothing but the ball between him and the Turkish keeper. But Podolski's shot soars safely above the crossbar.
30': Turkey generates another chance as a high cross into the box is headed by Semih Senturk directly into Lehmann's hands. Germany sprints down the field in 20 seconds and organizes a threat on their own. This brand of end-to-end action portends more goals before the dust clears in this one.
26': GOAL! Germany gets the quick equalizer they craved, as Lukas Podolski's shot attempt was beautifully redirected by Schweinsteiger past Turkey goalkeeper Recber Ruscu. We're level through 26 minutes in Basel.
22': GOAL! After a Kazim Kazim off-balance shot attempt lobs off the woodwork, Turkey's Ugur Boral catches the rebound and deposits the ball past Jens Lehmann for the game-opening score. Turkey's lead is deserved given the way they've dictated the action early. You can't say enough about Kazim's pace early.
20': The Germans look surprisngly disorganized in attack. Meanwhile, Turkey has already put two shots off the woodwork and asserted itself as the more purposeful side.
17': Terrible giveaway by Hakan Kadir Balta in Turkey's own third. Germany's Bastian Schweinsteiger rushes toward the outside of the penalty area with the ball before giving away possession to the Turks on a questionable no-call. Still no substantial chances on goal for the Germans.
13': Kazim Kazim rifles a shot from point-blank range off the crossbar, providing the game's first shot on goal. Turkey's subsequent corner yields nothing, but the message has been sent. Surprisingly (and contrary to form), Turkey has looked like the better and more adamant side through the game's opening stage.
11': The Turks work the ball down into the last third of the field before Kazim Kazim gives away possession to Germany. Both sides appear to be applying pressure early on.
8': Turkey gets the first thing resembling a chance as midfielder Hamit Altinop half-beats Germany's Philip Lahm in the box before conceding possession.
5': The Germans have come out with a less conservative look compared to previous matches in this tournament. No chances yet, but the positioning shows they're eager to score early. Could Germany's supremely underwhelming Mario Gomez finally break his scoreless run today? He'll have to come off the bench to do so, as German coach Joachim Low has started Lukas Podolski across Miroslav Klose atop his team's standard 4-4-2 formation.
1': We're underway from St. Jakob Park in Basel, Switzerland. None of Turkey's three "doubtful" players -- Emre Belozoglu, Servet Cetin and Tumer Metin have been included in the starting lineup.
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With the first semifinal of Euro 2008 getting underway in just a few minutes, here's your "Starting Eleven" -- the 11 things you need to know about the first-ever meeting between Germany and Turkey in a major international tournament:
1. Today's match has been billed as a meeting between Germany's "two" national teams. Turks comprise the country's largest minority, with three million people of Turkish origin living there.
2. Said Kenan Kolat, chairman of the umbrella group for Germany's Turkish communities in an interview with Reuters: "For us, 'we' means both Germany and Turkey, so one of our teams is guaranteed a place in the final and we're very happy."
3. Turkish players Hamit Altintop and Hakan Balta were born in Germany, while German manager Joachim Low earned his stripes managing Turkish clubs Fenerbachce and Adanaspor.
4. German organizers have extended the "Fan Mile" running through the center of Berlin to 1.2 kilometers (0.7 miles), where half a million people are expected to watch today's match on three giant screens.
5. Turkey would be a heavy underdog today against the three-time European champions on reputation alone, but injuries and suspensions have further compromised their chances. Four suspensions, two confirmed injury absences and three players listed as doubtful leave Turkey with just 12 healthy players ... including two goalkeepers.
6. In stark contrast with Turkey, the Germans have enjoyed a long and successful history in this tournament, reaching the semifinals or final seven times since the country's first appearance in 1972.
7. Casual soccer fans might remember Turkey from the 2002 World Cup, where a similarly gutsy group advanced to the semifinal in South Korea and Japan before dropping a 1-0 decision to eventual champ Brazil. But Turkey's strong performance six summers ago shouldn't suggest this Euro 2008 run was expected in any way. Turkey fell off sharply from the international stage following their '02 World Cup run.
8. Had the Turks defeated Brazil in the '02 World Cup semifinal, they would have faced Germany in the final.
9. It's the political overtones which frequently make international soccer tournaments such compelling theater. Longtime outsiders to European soccer, geography and politics, Turkey has made a persistent push to join the European Union in recent years -- a movement which hasn't exactly been endorsed by Germany. An upset today certainly wouldn't punch Turkey's ticket to the EU, but no one could deny the symbolic meaning of a victory over a charter member of the continent's old boys' club.
10. Today's match will be overseen by Swiss referee Massimo Busacca, who was originally a businessman before before becoming a referee in 1996 and earning his FIFA certificate in 1999. He previously refereed in the 2006 World Cup.
11. The sides have met four times since Germany's reunification, with Turkey actually winning three times and drawing once. In their most recent meeting, Turkey engineered a 2-1 victory over Germany in Istanbul.
On paper, the Germans should have their way with the Turks. With Tuncay Sanli, Arda Turan, Emre Asik and first-choice goalkeeper Volkan Demirel suspended and Nihat Kahveci and Emre Gugor confirmed out, Turkey coach Fatih Terim is working with a shoestring budget. But the Crescent-Stars have overcome adversity at every stage, logging comeback victories against Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Croatia reach this stage. The team's collective tenacity will continue to serve it well. But a Germany team with no injury or suspension concerns -- and playing on its doorstep -- should prevail in a narrow result. Prediction: Germany 1, Turkey 0