Sunday, June 22, 2008

Croatia v/s Turkey Euro2008 QF

What makes some teams more stubborn than others? Why do one set of players have ‘belief’ faced with any circumstance while others wilt at the slightest setback? Where are the scripts for the greatest sporting moments written?

The 120th minute goal scored by Klasnic and created by Modric was the apt finale to a tense quarterfinal. Croatia the better team over, first ninety and then 120 minutes of play finally scoring the goal they deserved but did not have. Modric the best player on the pitch playing his part and Klasnic the man who’s made a comeback in life after two kidney translplants putting the ball at the back of the net. Perfect. Job done. And thank God no penalties. You always feel it is fairer when the game is won before the kicks.

Except that there was still time. For one last kick by the Turks. And when that was shot over the bar from a long range (Sarioglu I think), it was definitely all over bar the whistle. But before the ref had time to put the whistle in his mouth the Turks conjured a second chance. One that flew in from the deep, bounced dangerously in the Croatian box and was punched straight in by Semih Senturk.

From then the penalties seemed a formality. Dejected Croats and chirpy Turks lined up one after the other and the result was hardly a surprise after the way the game had turned. Modric, I felt was destined to miss. Penalty shoot outs are rarely about goal keepers and their heroic saves. Most of the times it is the strikers with wobbly knees and pounding hearts who write the script and two shots wide sealed Croatia’s fate.

Like all other teams that have been eliminated, Croatia will look at the what-ifs and wonder how they didn’t wrap it up in regulation time. They had a team which could have gone all the way but the failure to force the win, cost them their chance of glory. But I expect to see a lot of Modric (Spurs and Ramos seemed to have picked a class act) and co. and certainly we will see Bilic end-up in the highest paid Managers league sooner rather than later.

Turkey. They are not the best team around but after three come-from-behind wins on the trot, maybe the Germans will be tempted to concede first to stand a greater chance. If they do become champions, it will be the triumph of spirit, teamwork and strategy. Which will be great, but if they can add some flair to the equation, the package will be complete.

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