Turkey's toughness to be tested

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:56 AM ET

VIENNA -- Turkey is going to have to pull an elephant out of a hat.

Mind you, it's pulled just about everything else out of it.

The little nation with a big heart has performed magic tricks like no other country in Euro 2008.

Tomorrow will be the next in a long line of seemingly impossible assignments.

Turkey started small, eliminating Switzerland after trailing 1-0. It scored the winner late into injury time.

The next trick was a beauty. The Czech Republic had Turkey down 2-0 with less than 15 minutes to play. Turkey scored three goals in 15 minutes, two of them in the last three to eliminate the Czechs and move on.

But Turkey was just getting warmed up.

Next came the quarter-finals with Croatia. Turkey missed six players to injury and suspension. Croatia looked like it was going to perform its magic, scoring with one minute left in extra time. With the last kick of the game, Turkey tied it and won it on penalties.

If you think that was tough, Turkey gets one suspended player back, but three more will be suspended: Tuncay Sanli, Arda Turan and Emre Asik.

Striker Nihat Kahveci is out of the tournament after injuring his leg.

Emre Gungor (calf) has already been ruled out of Euro 2008, while Servet Cetin (hip and knee), Tumer Metin (groin) and Emre Belozoglu (hamstring) don't know if they'll be fit in time.

Goalkeeper Volkan Demirel's appeal to have the second game of his two-game suspension overturned was denied. He'll sit out the Germany game.

The Turks have just 13 fit players, and coach Fatih Terim jokingly suggested he may have to make his third goalkeeper an on-field player if things get drastic.

German midfielder Torsten Frings is back from a broken rib, but Germany's coach Joachim Loew won't say if he'll start.

Despite what looks like grim odds, no one is counting Turkey out.

Its players perform with great passion and determination. Tough is a word that is often used to describe them, tough in body and in mind.

Turkey is quite capable of producing brilliant moments of flashy football.

There aren't many options for Terim when it comes to creating a lineup. He'll have players playing out of position, but he'll start the man who has become a super-sub.

Semih Senturk scored both his Euro 2008 goals after coming off the bench. He scored the last-kick equalizer against Croatia.

"I don't think I play badly when I start, but I score as a substitute," Semih said at a press conference. "I will never forget the Croatia goal for the rest of my life. I thought we were going out, but then our coach Fatih Terim told us to hit long balls. It was like a miracle for me."

Miracle is a good word. It might be what Turkey needs.

Germany's 3-2 win over Portugal in their quarter-final was one of Germany's best performances in a long time.

They are confident and Loew will have them prepared for Turkey. Loew coached Fenerbahce in the Turkish league during the 1998-99 season. But he doesn't need ancient history to know how hard Turkey plays the game.

All he has to do is look to this tournament.

"We are still not afraid of any opponent," said Turkish defender Gokhan Zan. "Germany is favourite to beat us because they always do better and better when a tournament advances. We must rely on the same courageous football that has brought us this far."

Until the final whistle goes, Turkey will never stop trying to produce that moment of magic.


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