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Three assists

Inspirational Altintop sparks Turkish delight

Hamit Altintop and his Turkey team-mates triumphed in a thrilling Euro 2008 Group A decider on Sunday night to seal a berth in the quarter-finals. Coach Fatih Terim’s men came from two down to seal a dramatic 3-2 win in their third and final group fixture in Geneva, booking a meeting with Croatia on Friday with a semi-final place at stake.

Arda Turan’s strike fifteen minutes from time ushered in a remarkable closing phase, Nihat Kahveci firing a brace on 87 and 90 minutes to complete an unlikely turnaround and earn the Turks a second quarter-final spot after Euro 2000. Jan Koller of relegated Bundesliga outfit Nürnberg opened for the Czechs on 34 minutes before Jaroslav Plasil doubled the advantage on the hour.

Praise for Altintop

Bayern dynamo Altintop must take a huge share of the credit for Turkey’s stirring fightback. The 25-year-old switched from right-back to central midfield midway through the second half, sensationally providing the assists for all three of his side’s goals. His tally of 70 percent tackles won was also one of the best on the night.

“The switch was a good idea from the coach,“ Altintop commented. ZDF TV expert commentator and new Dortmund boss Jürgen Klopp praised Hamit as “the man who turned the match on its head.“ The former Schalke man’s pinpoint crosses from the inside right position paved the way for his side’s first two goals, before a superb defence-splitting pass releasing Nihat for the winner.

Aiming for the semis

“We always believed in ourselves. We’re a good footballing team," continued Altintop, brimming with optimism ahead of the quarter-finals: “Croatia have a very experienced team who keep it tight, as we saw in their meeting with Germany. But I’m optimistic, provided we let the ball do the work, dribble and shoot. I firmly believe we can get through."