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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
There have been so many good articles I've read that I think this would be a good place to share them.

Here's one from today:


Lie back and think of Europe
When England failed to qualify for Euro 2008, the Booker prize-winning novelist AS Byatt wondered if she would enjoy the tournament. But, thanks to courageous Turks and inventive Russians, it has proved superb - and free of anxiety

The Observer, Sunday June 29, 2008

I watch a lot of sport on television. I only watch certain sports, and I only watch them live - I don't think I've ever been able to watch a replay of a match or game of which the result was already decided. I feel bound to cheat and look up what can be looked up. I watch for aesthetic reasons. Some are to do with real dramatic tension. There is a story, and the end is really unknown until it comes. I have worked out that I also watch as though I was watching a kinetic sculpture or abstract light show. The things I watch are all contained in quadrilaterals, concern the movement of round balls, and the shifting lines of force and energy made by the players' movements. The games I care about are snooker, tennis, and football. The rules of rugby have changed to make the movements more fluid and exciting for the TV viewer so sometimes I watch that too. But I cannot get interested in, say, motor racing or golf.

I wondered whether Euro 2008 would be exciting or gripping with no national team to support. It has, in fact, been infinitely more pleasurable, more varied, and more interesting. This has caused me to think about the emotions that go into 'supporting' a team. I myself tend instinctively to substitute northern European teams if there is no English interest. But when you look closely at 'supporting' it is a weird emotion and bears only a tangential relation to admiration of skills and courage in players.

Chambers Dictionary defines 'support' as 'to bear the weight of, to hold up, to endure' - all of which, especially enduring, we had to do again and again before the English got eliminated from the competition. The dictionary also refers to 'maintaining a loyal interest in the fortunes of (especially a sporting team) usually by attendance at matches'. I have only once been this kind of supporter - only ever attended one match - when The Observer sent me to the England-Germany semi-final of Euro 1996 at Wembley, and I found myself seated among packs of Germans wearing horned helmets and tabards. It was a pleasant experience. They stood up and roared when their team did well, and then patted me comfortably on the shoulder to show they sympathised with me too. None of us enjoyed the tension of the penalty shoot-out, which the Germans won.

But 'supporting' a team alone in an armchair is often a tense and dismal business. The emotions are horribly one-way. I don't quite know what they are about. I have tennis players I love to watch - Ferreiro, Kiefer and Safin - but although I admired Henman's elegance I don't think I have ever watched one of his matches through. I found things to do at my desk or in the kitchen, and peered in, anxiously, from time to time to see if he was still there. Murray doesn't bother me the same way. He is obstreperously Scottish and is his own problem. But then, so was Henman his own problem, not mine. There is something ugly in having a problem you can do nothing about.

I talk to my dentist about football. I said to him before the English team's final Croatia disaster that I didn't think they would qualify. 'The English what?' he said furiously and filled my mouth with shining and stabbing things so I couldn't answer. But he was right. Compared to all the teams left in Euro 2008, the English lacked both cohesion and elegance. One would never have chosen to 'support' them if one had a choice. But one didn't, and yet felt implicated in their muddles and disasters. I knew in my guts, in that last match against Croatia, that they would not have the purpose and determination to stop Croatia scoring again. I hoped they would, and knew they wouldn't, and they didn't. No such emotions mar watching the England-less Euro 2008. I felt a kind of primitive relief when the English supporters in the stadium began to boo. I have never seen furious-faced supporters, as opposed to disappointed ones. It was ugly but cathartic.

The English press, and the English team, and the English supporters always collude to tell an improbable story about what is going to happen before a competition begins. We are told we have a constellation of major players who will sweep everyone aside. We don't. We have several very good players who can't play together - they were better under Sven-Göran Eriksson and got about as far in the last World Cup as we could, realistically, have hoped. The sad moment of truth was when Gerrard said: 'We talked ourselves up too much.'

Watching Euro 2008 has been pure pleasure, unaccompanied by any gut anxieties. It began with the Dutch going forward so joyfully and making such lovely shapes, and went on with the fierce courage of the Turks, coming back twice from the very brink of defeat. The only comparable drama I have watched was when Liverpool came back from 3-0 down at half-time to beat AC Milan in Istanbul in 2005. I have a Turkish friend - poet, man of the theatre, professor - who is a fierce fan of Galatasaray so I take vicarious supporters' pleasure on his behalf. I remember once being kept awake all night by singing and dancing crowds all along the Bosphorus because Trebizond had beaten Aston Villa. Turkish fans and Turkish teams are ferocious in the same way.

By the time the quarter-finals were over the teams I found disappointing had been eliminated - the sad, bewildered French, the wooden, blockish Italians - along with teams I had enjoyed watching - the long-legged, striding Swedes, for instance, and the Dutch, who were unexpectedly playing the kind of football they invented, a whole team moving together and understanding where everyone else was, and where they could, and would, go. When they played the Russians I would have been happy for either to win - either the quarter-final or the whole tournament. The Dutch were elegant and the Russians were startling and endlessly inventive. Both sides were better than I had expected from earlier appearances but the Russians had become a different team from the one that beat the English, 2-1, in a match the English had to win, last October. It is exciting to watch what has been a collection of clever, separate players, suddenly become an articulate whole.

When the Germans played the Portuguese the armchair spectators in our house did take sides. My husband sits in the room half-watching and half-studying astronomy on his laptop - though he always manages to notice and get indignant about diving. I very much wanted the Germans to beat the Portuguese, largely because I still remember Cristiano Ronaldo's petulant display and nasty wink when Rooney was sent off in the quarter-final against Portugal in the 2006 World Cup. My husband was extraneously irritated by German politicians' heavy-handed comments, that day, after the Irish referendum, and cheered on the Portuguese.

I was supporting the Turks against the Croatians simply because their failure to give up against the Czechs was the most exciting moment so far in the whole tournament. Unlike the English, they also refused to give up against the Croats. Semih's equalising goal when the Croats were already celebrating victory was one of the goals, and most dramatically satisfying moments, of the whole tournament.

I surprised myself in the Turkish-German semi-final by becoming an ardent supporter for the first time and heard my own voice calling 'Come on, the Turks'. They came on, and were as brave and fierce and indefatigable as ever. The Germans were careful and intelligent but the Turks - despite so many of the players being different because of injuries and suspensions - were more than ever a team with one identity and one purpose. They so nearly managed again to take the match to extra time, which would have felt better. Lahm's last-minute goal did to them what they had done to the Czechs and the Croats. I am quite happy that Germany reached the final - they scored clever goals, and also do not give in or give up. As Ballack said, the Turks and the Germans have the same mentality.

In the other semi-final, the Spanish surprised me. They had said that the Russians - unlike the Italians - played a kind of open football which would make it easier for them to play their best. They played beautifully and gracefully, making the Russians appear a little lost and confused where in earlier matches they had been full of surprises. The Spanish were smiling and we smiled with them.

Watching football on TV instead of in a stadium means that the skills of the cameramen and film crews construct the story we see. They can show you how a move was put together - from many points of view - the bits you couldn't see, the lurking striker, the waiting defender. They show you also, in slow motion, the bits of drama that passed fleetly. The curve of a studded boot round a hooked ankle. The free-falling diving form, untouched by human arm or leg.

One of the best flashbacks ever was when the cameras - presumably after sifting all their footage - suddenly found a wonderful image of Ballack's face when he scored his decisive free-kick against Austria, a distorted mask of focused breathing energy, like a classical sculpture of a wind god. Thinking about this has helped me to see that while penalties within a match are part of the drama - part of the text - the penalty shoot-out is peculiarly nasty because it changes the viewers' emotional relationship with teams and players. Yes, we get horribly tense, but tension is less pleasurable than excitement. And a series of two-man duels isn't really part of the game we have just seen and sensed. In the anti-climactic shoot-out at the end of the unsatisfactory Italy-Spain match, the more attractive team won, but it didn't feel like a good ending. One does not remember the winners. One remains haunted by the losers. I shall never forget Gareth Southgate's dejected hunched shoulders after he missed the crucial penalty in Euro 1996. Or watching Gerrard miss a penalty in the shoot-out with Portugal.

One of the pleasures of this tournament has been watching quite different teams finding their best shape as they progressed. The Russians succeeded the Dutch and were succeeded by the Spanish. It has been an experience of watching the best teams become better and win the matches. The Germans have still got things that can get stronger whereas the Spanish seem to have played as well as they can. That ought to mean that the Germans will win. They are saving something.

Byatts's best in threes
Three players

Germany's Schweinsteiger, Spain's Fernando Torres and Pavlyuchenko of Russia. All three players are indefatigable and have an extraordinary sense of the shape of a game. In the end Pavlyuchenko was more consistently exciting than Arshavin. Schweinsteiger is a mixture of power and clinical precision. I loved his flicked goal against the Turks. Torres turns a whole team into a work of art, and Pavlyuchenko has courage and intelligence.

Three incidents

· Wesley Sneijder's wonderful fourth goal in Holland's 4-1 defeat of the French. This was the moment when I really believed that Holland were back to their former grace and glory.

· Ballack's free kick against Austria - to see him make up his mind, compose himself, and then concentrate all that exact power into one movement was truly splendid.

· The two Turkish comebacks and last-minute goals against both the Czech Republic and Croatia - these were the dramatically most satisfactory and uplifting moments of the whole tournament - indeed, the most exciting moments of football I have ever seen.

Three managers

· Fatih Terim, the Turkish magician. I've never seen a manager so much part of his team. I loved his rapid, spell-casting movements with his fingers. He conveyed complete belief and willpower.

· Guus Hiddink, the Russian manager. I liked him for the opposite reasons - his unruffled calm, his philosophical approach to how good or bad his players were. And he speaks splendid witty sentences, especially when being dry about the Dutch.

· Luis Aragonés, the Spanish manager. It is very good to see someone almost 70 years old overseeing passionate, lovely football. His face doesn't change much - he has a Spanish kind of dignity.

...and finally

· I know the Turks are not in the final but they were far and away the most exciting side - they had heart, they loved what they were doing, they went grimly on when they should have given up hope, and not only went on, but turned defeat into victory.

· The saddest team - and probably the worst - was the French, a collection of ghosts of once awe-inspiring and fluent players, who appeared lost and bewildered

· *the drum drum*
44,165 Posts
Euro 2008; the cream of the crop
It has been a tournament that has challenged popular wisdom and even the Premier League's most celebrated imports were outdone

Oliver Kay
Who would have imagined, on the eve of Euro 2008, that Cristiano Ronaldo would be outshone by a young man named Arda Turan, that Fernando Torres would be eclipsed by David Villa, at least until the final, or that Petr Cech would be a liability in goal for the Czech Republic?

Only one England-based player, Michael Ballack, makes our team of the tournament, which raises the question of whether it is possible to shine in a competition at the end of a Barclays Premier League campaign. Or maybe the rest of Europe is just better than we think.

Team of the tournament (4-2-3-1)

Iker Casillas (Spain) Was his country's match-winner against Italy - not only in the penalty shoot-out - and a worthy recipient of the trophy.

Hamit Altintop (Turkey) Excelled at right back and in midfield, and is, above all, a footballer.

Pepe (Portugal) The competition was lacking in defensive brilliance, but Pepe, born in Brazil, impressed. Could be world-class if he matures as a player.

Carlos Marchena (Spain) Grew in stature as his team progressed. Not the quickest, strongest or most physically imposing, but reads the game.

Yuri Zhirkov (Russia) Sound defensively and enterprising going forward from left back.

Marcos Senna (Spain) Another Brazilian with a European passport, he did an essential job for his adopted country.

Michael Ballack (Germany) A runner-up again, but not for want of trying. At times, against Austria and Portugal, he threatened to run this tournament.

Wesley Sneijder (Holland) No shortage of attacking flair in this tournament, but no player came close to Sneijder early on.

Andrei Arshavin (Russia) Truly mesmerising in his playmaker's role against Sweden and Holland.

Arda Turan (Turkey) Two-footed and blessed with vision as well as great technique.

David Villa (Spain) Absent from the final, but no one should forget what Villa had done for Spain to that point, even if he scored only once after his hat-trick against Russia in his opening match.

Subs: Artur Boruc (Poland), Giorgio Chiellini (Italy), Philipp Lahm (Germany), Deco (Portugal), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany), Lukas Podolski (Germany), Roman Pavlyuchenko (Russia)

Link: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/football/international/euro_2008/article4245400.ece

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44,165 Posts
I think quotes and links might be better suited from here on out, otherwise this thread will become too long to scroll and hard to read ;)

Euro 2008 - The Post Mortem
(See 'Player of the tournament', 'game of the tournament' and 'moment of the tournament').

Another one;
Euro 2008: The Official UEFA Squad Of The Tournament

"Altintop was the pick of the Turkish midfield, so I am happy to see him rewarded although Arda Turan was another decent option."

"I think Semih Senturk could have got a place here, his goals were as dramatic as they were important for his team, and the Turks deserved more than just one place in the squad on the back of a thrilling tournament."

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·

"Joe Soubaih explains why putting Turkey's tremendous Euro 2008 run down to pure luck would be an injustice as he takes a look at some of their past classic encounters..."
Thanks for posting this D.

A great quote:

"A team doesn’t get lucky three games in a row, with the same formula"

It angers me so much when people say we were lucky. You make your own luck FFS! If we sat back and didn't fight, would we win???

How many of the goals were lucky (i.e. deflections or own goals)?

We won because we didn't give up, minutes or seconds meant nothing. The decent reporters out there recognise this.

Was Liverpools win agains Milan in the ECL lucky??? NO! They didn't give up!

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How many were deflections or own goals?

Let's see :D

1 - Semih Senturk v Switzerland
A goalkeeper usually saves those when he gets a whole palm on the ball.

2 - Arda Turan v Switzerland
Without the deflection, it doesn't go in.

3 - Nihat Kahveci v Czech Rep
Petr Cech hasn't ever dropped a cross like that, even at training. I'm even partially inclined to put the winning goal down to the new ball design a bit, look at the wicked dip. The old style balls don't dip like that.

Note - I love the new ball because it's hell on goalkeepers. If you have the chance to try one, do it and mimic the Juninho/Pirlo free-kick technique. You'll feel professional for a minute or two :D

4 - Semih Senturk v Croatia
Ball took one deflection to bobble to him, and another one (off of Corluka I think) after he hit it.

5 - Ugur Boral v Germany
Lehmann basically sat on the ball :D

It's not to take anything away from anyone, but you can't deny the massive slice of luck involved in getting that far in the tournament. Yes the skill and talent is there and was on display, but without a lot of things going our way we wouldn't have made it out of the group let alone made the semi-final.

We played our one good, dominant game against Germany . . and when the luck was on their side instead of ours, it turned out to be the end of the road

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This is a brilliant article!

How 'Those Crazy Turks' got so farBy Alp Ayhan

In a tranquil German village called Marienfeld, the Turkish national team is preparing for its return to the international stage after six years of frustrated absence. Things aren't looking promising for Fatih Terim however, as Gökhan Gönül, undoubtedly the best Turkish player of the season, is written off for the championships due to a metatarsal injury.

Terim takes training in southern Germanay ahead of a tumultous month for Turkish football.
'I won't be calling up a replacement', says Terim. Has he gone insane?

Quite possibly. In fact, before the tournament even commenced, 'The Crazy Turks' was a slogan that virally caught on in Turkey.

Inspired by the bestselling book titled 'Su Çilgin Türkler', meaning 'Those Crazy Turks', a compilation of heroic accounts from the years Turkey was under occupation after the First World War, the media and practically every business that had a budget to advertise was capitalising on Turkey's new tag. And that was before the crazy expedition to Austria and Switzerland had even kicked off.

When Terim and his assistants sat down to select the final unit to travel to Switzerland, Hamit Altintop's name was scribbled down, the Bayern Munich man having just made it after a long lasting injury.

Emre Belözoglu was in despite hardly featuring for Newcastle United all season.

Servet Çetin, known among fans as 'the octopus' for his irregular mode of travel on the football pitch, was again a half-fit inclusion. To the shock of many and whilst the wounded were being called up for battle, Hamit's brother Halil was told to go home, together with another Germanic Turk in Yildiray Bastürk,

Terim was asking for trouble, according to a huge proportion of the Turkish sports media.

Another battle was to be fought between Terim and the journalists attending those press conferences in Germany and then in Switzerland and Austria.

'Criticisms are reaching the point of insult', said Terim in one of them, but were they really that ruthless towards the man who took Galatasaray to UEFA Cup euphoria in 2000?

Quite frankly; no. The problem was Terim's ego - his unstoppable imposition of persona on a nation that, probably in his opinion, should be worshipping him collectively and not questioning a single step that he takes in his managerial career.

Why not? After all, he had managed AC Milan for a whole five months.

Despite all his flaws (don't tell him that), Terim is quite possibly the only man in the world that could have taken Turkey to the semi finals of the European Championships.

Turkish players, or indeed Turkish people, are reactive by nature. They will look to a collective spirit, whether it be the fans, the president, or the coach for inspiration and energy. Terim accumulates his inner frustration, his burning desire to win and a fearless attitude to morph into a 'hairdryer' in the dressing room.

Through Terim, the Turkish footballer finds belief. It's only a recent phenomenon that Turkish players are beginning to make it abroad on an individual level, without having to rely on others for emotional support.

Tactically, Terim started the tournament poorly. Against Portugal, he introduced a brand new system for Turkey, based on the success of Luciano Spalletti's Roma and Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United.

He played quick, ball carrying forwards with Nihat Kahveci being the upper point of the attacking triangle. Mevlüt Erdinç, a complete unknown for Turks as he plays his football in France, was placed in an outside right position, with Tuncay, a chronic back-heeler, on the left side. Both were hopeless at penetrating Portugal's defence as Terim had hoped.

A lack of possession meant Portugal were given free rein. Many were unsure about Servet before the tournament, but he played a steady game in defence, seemingly able to defend against much pacier opponents.

Hamit, without his twin brother with him, was pinned at right back for the whole of the Portugal clash. A man who plays on the right and in central midfield for Bayern Munich was being called to stand in for the injured Gökhan. He was to remain there, quietly, disciplined, playing with superb character.

Then the heavens opened in Basel. With one of the most dramatic changes in conditions perhaps football has ever seen, the Switzerland - Turkey game progressed to take its place in Turkish history next to the great tales of the Dardanelles.

Until the rain had come down, Turkey played an assured passing game which completely outfoxed the hosts, who looked at the three Turkish natives in their own line-up for inspiration.

With a score to settle from two years ago, Turkey were strong and aggressive. The Turkish pundits were now positively surprised. Looking at the desire that Terim had instilled in the team, the second half comeback was in fact inevitable, as the pitch dried up and brought back normality to the game.

Terim had to toughen up the midfield and provide presence up front. He did exactly that by putting Semih Sentürk next to Nihat and taking lightweight Tümer Metin off for Mehmet Topal in midfield. The star of the game, Arda Turan, assisted Semih's equaliser and went on to score the winner in the final minute.

Terim said after the game: 'We had said our tournament started with this match.'

As the squad became overstretched due to Emre and Gökhan's injuries, another motivational factor emerged for Terim to utilise. The Turks of the early nineties would have used absences as an excuse for failure, forgetting the fighting spirit of their ancestors, but self-confidence brought in by largely foreign managers with their local assistants, as Terim started out, laid the foundations for Turkish football's strengths to flourish.

It was this very outlook that won the Czech Republic game. Having the confidence to defend by way of attack was absolutely pivotal. Turkey mastered the art of covering up its weaknesses.

That wouldn't be enough on its own, of course. Hamit availed himself of being right-back, and installed himself in midfield for those spectacular last 15 minutes, in which he assisted all three of Turkey's goals, creating the miracle of Geneva himself.

It also still remains a mystery as to why Karel Brückner insisted on keeping ailing Jan Koller up front towards the end of the game, when a single speedy forward like Milan Baros would've split the Turkish defence wide open. Just like Petr Cech's butter-fingers, Brückner's reluctance to make that change was fortunate for Turkey.

What might have been: Volkan got himself sent off against the Czechs.
Had it not been for Volkan Demirel losing his cool, the first-choice goalkeeper would've played in the quarter final and the semi final, both of which would not have panned out the way they did with Rüstü Reçber's antics.

Volkan was once told to 'quit using hairgel' by former Fenerbahçe great Can Bartu who felt he was not throwing his presence around on the goalline enough for his club.

Volkan now has a buzz cut, but instead he finds pleasure in tipping over men that measure at two metres and expecting it to go unnoticed by the referees. One thing that Terim failed to get across his players was that they shouldn't get carded too easily. Reminding them they only had eight fit players would likely have done the trick.

But no, Turkey did it the hard way - much to the enjoyment of the world's football population, of course. But for Turks, it was heart-attack material.

Turkey was in the lead for a total of nine minutes in Euro 2008, each time giving the opponent a killer blow and bringing millions of Turks across the world back from the dead.

The debate raged on in Turkey. Should Semih start the quarter final with Croatia? Is Hamit going to play in midfield? Will he go for two strikers?

Increasingly in such situations, the Turkish football enthusiast's eyes turns to Ridvan Dilmen, a former Fenerbahçe dribbling wizard and now a frighteningly accurate pundit and co-commentator.

'This is the best team he could've picked for this game', said Dilmen. With suspensions and injuries increasing, the team probably picked itself, but Terim had to fit the jigsaw correctly.

Scoring late goals is no puzzle for Semih. For Fenerbahçe, he's been a bit-part player down the years. He's been the only product of Fener's youth system to survive among the big boys, but has always been second or third choice behind the foreign imports.

This season, due to Fenerbahçe's lack of firepower and Mateja Kezman's injury troubles, Semih was handed a chance, which he took well and ended up finishing the season as top scorer.

But still, a question mark remained over his physical ability to battle for 90 minutes. Against Germany, he started, and he was once again the man who gave hope late on.

Germans in the streets of Basel were not overly confident of reaching the final. They deemed their team lucky and many of them were no fans of their team's limp defending.

One wonders what could have happened if Nihat was fit, Arda and Tuncay weren't suspended. Let alone the fact that two central defenders were also unavailable, meaning Mehmet Topal had to move back from his usual midfield position.

Like with his club, Semih made a virtue out of being a sub.
A heroic effort it surely was, but the line between tournament champions and the rest is one that's clearly defined.

Largely it was Spain's first choice 11 on the podium in Vienna lifting the trophy. With just David Villa out, they were in an ideal position to demolish Germany.

Turkey are similar to Spain in style, but lack the big-match experience to keep their composure and don't have the same quality in every position.

If Turkey had made it to the final, it may have been a high scoring, end-to-end encounter.

That will probably happen when the two sidee face each other in the 2010 World Cup qualifiers.

As Terim has vowed to stay on until 2012, we will learn to expect the unexpected from the commander who has the right to steal the line; 'We shall never surrender.'
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