Turkey edge into Euros last 16 with tense win over Czechs

Turkey will face Austria in the last 16 in Leipzig on Tuesday, their first major tournament knockout match since the Euro 2008 semi-finals, when they were beaten by Germany.
Turkey's players celebrate qualifying for the knock-out stages at the end of the UEFA Euro 2024 Group F football match between the Czech Republic and Turkey at the Volksparkstadion in Hamburg on June 26, 2024.
Turkey's players celebrate qualifying for the knock-out stages at the end of the UEFA Euro 2024 Group F football match between the Czech Republic and Turkey at the Volksparkstadion in Hamburg on June 26, 2024. (Photo | AFP)

HAMBURG: Turkey reached the knockout phase at a major tournament for the first time in 16 years after a bad-tempered 2-1 win over a battling 10-man Czech Republic at Euro 2024 on Wednesday.

Vincenzo Montella's Turkey finished second in Group F behind Portugal to progress, as the Czechs were eliminated despite a brave performance on a sweltering night in Hamburg.

"Tonight we just want to celebrate, we deserve it," said Italian Montella. "But starting tomorrow we want to continue to make history."

Georgia also went through as one of the best third-placed teams after a stunning 2-0 win over Portugal in the group's other final game, eliminating Hungary.

Turkey will face Austria in the last 16 in Leipzig on Tuesday, their first major tournament knockout match since the Euro 2008 semi-finals, when they were beaten by Germany.

The Czechs were reduced to 10 men in the 20th minute when Antonin Barak was given the earliest red card in Euros history, beating the unwanted record set by France's Eric Abidal in 2008.

Barak's pair of bookings were two of 18 yellow cards shown in total, with Tomas Chory also shown red after the final whistle in ugly scenes.

Hakan Calhanoglu powered Turkey into a 51st-minute lead, but Tomas Soucek lashed in an equaliser midway through the second half.

A frantic finale to the game ensued as the Czech Republic pushed for the winner that would take them through, but Cenk Tosun ended their hopes on the counter-attack in added time.

There were ugly scenes at the final whistle as fans ran onto the pitch, with Czech forward Chory brandished a red card in the aftermath.

"We are upset, everyone wanted to advance, we had the right mindset," said Soucek.

"It was terribly hard with 10 men, we didn't want to concede, then we did, we levelled and pushed them until the last minute but then we conceded another."

The Czechs started strongly despite the tens of thousands of Turkey fans jeering their every touch, with Lukas Provod forcing Mert Gunok into an early save with a deflected shot.

They were especially dangerous from Vladimir Coufal's long throw-ins, one of which Robin Hranac headed over when unmarked.

But Turkey were given a huge boost as midfielder Barak caught Salih Ozcan by the halfway line and was shown a soft second yellow card.

Key Czech striker Patrik Schick could only feature among the substitutes after picking up an injury in the draw with Georgia last week.

He was given a yellow card for protesting from the bench after Provod was felled by a flying challenge.

Tempers fray

Turkey winger Kenan Yildiz was fortunate to stay on the pitch, only receiving a yellow for a nasty tackle on Hranac before elbowing Coufal in the face without punishment as tempers threatened to boil over.

Montella's side were struggling to break down their opponents despite the man advantage and almost fell behind when David Jurasek was denied by Gunok after a quick counter-attack.

Knowing defeat could send them home with Georgia leading Portugal, Turkey started brightly after the break and released the pressure on themselves with a crucial opening goal.

Yildiz had an effort brilliantly saved by Jindrich Stanek, but the Czech keeper suffered an arm injury in making the stop, and with him struggling to get back into position, Calhanoglu drilled the ball into the bottom corner.

Stanek was immediately replaced by back-up Matej Kovar as part of a triple change.

The Czechs became increasingly stretched as they went in search of the two goals they needed to stay in the tournament, and Turkey's teenage star Arda Guler failed to convert from barely three yards out.

But Soucek gave the Czechs hope when he fired home after Gunok spilt the ball following another Coufal hurl into the box.

The goal survived a long VAR review for a possible foul on the embarrassed keeper and a handball, before being eventually awarded to set up a thrilling finish.

Ivan Hasek's Czech Republic threw as many players forward as possible but could not find a moment of magic.

Instead, Turkey hit them on the break and substitute Tosun struck a fine finish into the far corner, before the match ended in fiery fashion.

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