Fans of Germany and Turkey are descending en masse on the busy town of Basel to watch Wednesday’s semi-final at St Jacobs Park Stadium on Wednesday night.
German fans are in a buoyant mood after their team defeated favorites Portugal 3-2 in the best game of the tournament so far.
Their counterparts have a blind belief in this team and the manager who have pulled off three miracles in as many games, defeating Switzerland, the Czech Republic and super favourites Croatia with last-minute goals, heroics and penalty kicks.
For 11 fit men
However, the Turkish team will be missing at least seven players from their line-up including top strikers Tuncay Sali, Nihat Kaveci, and Emre Asik, Emre Gungor, Sewat Cetin, and Arda Turan and are reportedly mulling fielding third goalie in the outfield.
Germany is at full strength and has even got Torsten Frings back. Coach Joachim Loew knows that with Turkey badgered by injuries, his team is the heavy favourite.
It is truly a shame that this excellent Turkish team will not be able to field its best players. Turkey has displayed nerves of steel and a heart as big as Istanbul in coming back from 0-1 against Switzerland, 0-2 against the Czechs, 0-1 against Croatia to win the love of their fans and the respect of the world.
Faith Terim must be wondering where to get 11 starters with most of his players falling to injury or suspension. Their victories have come at a heavy cost. Substitute Rustu Recber, goalie for Besiktas, was the hero of the penalty shootout against Croatia and will start in goal. Gokhan Zan is the only defender not injured. Hakan Balta, Uzulmez Ibrahim, and Mehmet Topuz will come in to defend.
Hero Cetin Servet is down with a hip injury but don’t be surprised to see him miraculously on the field. He has been one of the best central defenders of this tournament. In midfield, Terim only has Metin Tumer, Gokdeniz Karadeniz on the left, Emre in the middle and Yildiray Basturk on the right. Up front, Semih Sentruk of Fehnerbace, and Hamit Altintop of Bayern Munich will have to perform miracles to replace Tuncay and Nihat. Terim, I heard, has placed ads in various football magazines “help wanted” as he struggles and juggles with his line-up!
Germany on a roll
No such worries for Loew. His team is brimming with confidence and health after sending Ronaldo home to pick which teams wants him more. Germany played very well against a distracted Portugal. Ronaldo was thinking of Real Madrid, Scolari of Chelsea, and while they pondered how they would answer the post-game victory conferences, Germany destroyed them. As an English player once said, football is played by 22 people and in the end Germany wins.
Veteran Jens Lehmann starts in goal. Central defenders Christoph Metzelder and Per Mertesecker in the middle, Phillip Lahm and Clemens Fritz on the sides. Frings returns in the midfield with captain Michael Ballack, and excellent blonde starter Bastian Schweinsteiger. Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose are the strikers. Germany plays a solid 4-4-2 formation and the team has matured and improved since the World Cup.
They are the tallest team in the tournament and look for crosses for headers all game. Klose, Podolski, Ballack and Schweinsteiger can all score with headers as on the field. The offensive power can crush the Turkish substitutes.
Penalties, Terim’s hope
There is little Turkey can do to stop the German Panzers. If they had all their players, the game could be very competitive. Terim will have to close his team in the back and place his hopes on a miracle or a counterattack.
He will have to pray that his team can get to penalty kicks and rely on the 35-year-old Rustu to save them again. Miracles only happen three times for this Turkish team, I don't see them making it four. Turkey has honoured us and football by its gutsy performance in this Euro 2008. They and the Russians have been the revelations of the tournament.
Germany however is a different story now. Strong, confident, healthy and led by a matured Ballack, they are heavy favourites now to win this game and the tournament. Prayer and the colorful support from their ever-loyal fans will be the only weapons Terim has left to confront the teutonic onslaught that is sure to come.