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Heartbreak for Hamit

Bayern trio fire Germany to Euro final

Turkey have been the masters of grandstand finishes and late comebacks at Euro 2008, but Philipp Lahm turned the tables on Fatih Terim’s men with a last-minute strike in Wednesday’s first semi-final to earn Germany a dramatic 3-2 win and a place in Sunday’s final. The 39,374 capacity crowd at St. Jakob Park in Basel saw an enthralling encounter in which all Germany’s goals came from Bayern stars: Bastian Schweinsteiger made the score 1-1 after 26 minutes, before Miroslav Klose handed his side a 2-1 lead with eleven minutes remaining.

Hamit Altintop again provided the inspiration for a brave Turkey side who scored through Ugur Boral (22) and Semih Sentürk (86). The Germans thus progress to Sunday’s final in Vienna, where they will meet the winners of Thursday’s Spain v Russia semi-final. “This is definitely one of the best moments of my career. Luckily we’ve made it to the final, even though we didn’t play very well,“ match-winner Lahm declared.

Podolski in midfield

Germany coach Joachim Löw named a side unchanged from the thrilling quarter-final victory over Portugal, with Lukas Podolski again on the left of midfield, Schweinsteiger patrolling the opposite flank and Klose as a lone target man. Marcell Jansen made a brief appearance as a late sub, while new FCB signing Tim Borowski failed to get off the bench.

A Turkey side decimated by injury and suspension stunned the sluggish Germans with an energetic and lively opening, as Bayern utility man Altintop again enhanced his growing reputation as both a midfield workhorse and inventive playmaker. Boral handed his side a deserved lead midway through the first half after Kazim had twice rattled the crossbar, but Löw’s men have conjured up some of the slickest passing moves of the tournament and produced another just when it mattered.

Carbon copy of quarters

In a duplicate of the opening goal against the Portuguese, Podolski broke clear down the left and centred for Schweinsteiger, timing his run to perfection, to flick the ball into the far corner with the outside of his right boot and level the scores.

The Turks continued to dominate possession for long spells and applied pressure to a shaky German rearguard, but the three-time European champions ruthlessly took their chance when it came on 79 minutes, veteran keeper Rüstü arriving too late to meet a Lahm cross and allowing Klose to leap athletically and head his side into a 2-1 lead. It was Klose’s second goal at the Euro and his 41st for his country. “After scoring, I knew it would still be tight. We’ve all seen what Turkey have achieved up to now,“ the striker commented.

Never-say-die Turks

The Turks had indeed staged remarkable late comebacks against Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Croatia, and looked set for another spot of miracle-working when Sentürk beat keeper Jens Lehmann at the near post to equalise with four minutes remaining. Lahm had been unable to prevent Sabri Sarioglu skipping past him on the right in the build-up to yet another dramatic late equaliser.

However, the Germans were set to hand the Turks a taste of their own medicine. Lahm, desperate to make up for his defensive lapse, played a neat one-two with former FCB youth Thomas Hitzlsperger before charging into the box and curling an unstoppable finish past Rüstü to win the match with his third international goal. “With the benefit of hindsight, you could say we’ve done what the Turks have done so well up to now, scoring goals in the last minute,“ Schweinsteiger reflected.