Underdogs enliven semifinals

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:35 AM ET

VIENNA -- Two teams expected to be here, the other two were supposed to be home by now.

No one is much surprised Germany and Spain are here. Both were expected to do well even though Spain played far better in the group stage.

Turkey and Russia weren't supposed to get out of the group stage and certainly weren't expected to make the semifinals.

Turkey has provided the late-game heroics in this tournament. Left for dead at least twice, this indomitable team has left a trail of shattered teams and dreams.

In its group games, Turkey scored in three minutes into extra time to defeat host Switzerland, eliminating them.

Turkey then went two down to the Czech Republic with 15 minutes left in the game. They stunned the Czechs scoring three times including two in the last three minutes.

Perhaps the most improbable win came in their quarter-final against Croatia. With one minute left in extra time, Croatia took the lead. However, the last kick of the game Semih Senturk sent a rocket into the top of the net for the tie.Croatia was destroyed mentally and Turkey easily won on kicks from the penalty spot, 3-1.

Russia continues to get stronger as the tournament progresses. Dismantled 4-1 by Spain in their opening game, Russia has steadily fought back, playing attacking soccer.

They moved to the semifinals with an emphatic, almost fairytale like win over the Netherlands. That 3-1 win must have sent a frisson of fear to the other teams. Russia will continue to attack regardless of the situation.

Turkey and Germany will play Wednesday in Basel.With the enormous Turkish population in Germany, this match has enormous emotional implications.

The Germans were one of the favourites going into the tournament but had a difficult group stage. They needed a win over Austria to qualify.

They were at their best against Portugal, dominating physically and producing quality goals.

Thursday in Vienna it will be Spain and Russia, two teams who, for the most part, love to play attacking soccer.

Russia gets a chance to exact some sort of revenge for its first-game thumping.

But Spain recognizes if it wins the semifinal, it will be one game away from shedding the image it's had since winning the European championship at home in 1964. No longer will they be dismissed as underachievers.


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