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Euro 2024: Turkey defeat Czechs to secure Last-16 spot

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Turkeys defender #04 Samet Akaydin and Czech republics forward #19 Tomas Chory fight for the ball during the UEFA Euro 2024 Group F football match between the Czech Republic and Turkey at the Volksparkstadion in Hamburg on June 26, 2024. — AFP
Turkey’s defender #04 Samet Akaydin and Czech republic’s forward #19 Tomas Chory fight for the ball during the UEFA Euro 2024 Group F football match between the Czech Republic and Turkey at the Volksparkstadion in Hamburg on June 26, 2024. — AFP 

HAMBURG: Turkey secured a place in the Euro 2024 last-16 with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over a resilient 10-man Czech Republic on Wednesday. Goals from Hakan Calhanoglu and Cenk Tosun ensured Turkey’s progression, while the Czechs were sent packing.

Midfielder Antonin Barak, 28, was shown a harsh second yellow card in the 20th minute, leaving the Czechs with a steep hill to climb. Despite their disadvantage, the Czech team showed impressive spirit and determination throughout the match.

Calhanoglu broke the deadlock in the 50th minute with a precise low shot, marking his first goal in his third Euros. His strike ignited celebrations among Turkish fans, who had turned out in large numbers, creating a raucous atmosphere in Hamburg. Czech goalkeeper Jindrich Stanek, who appeared to injure his shoulder during a save, was unable to continue after Calhanoglu’s goal.

The match took another dramatic turn when 19-year-old Arda Guler missed a golden opportunity to double Turkey’s lead. Moments later, Tomas Soucek equalised for the Czechs in the 66th minute, pouncing on a chaotic long throw-in to score.

In a thrilling climax, Tosun netted the winner in stoppage time, sparking wild celebrations on the Turkish bench and among their supporters. The victory exorcised the ghosts of Euro 2020, where Turkey had suffered three defeats and conceded eight goals.

“We all fought very well together,” said defender Mert Muldur. “We had a hard time against such teams in the past. I think we have improved ourselves.”

Turkey finished second in Group F behind Portugal, setting up a last-16 clash with Austria on 2nd July in Leipzig. “When we talked with our friends before the camp, our only goal was to get out of the group. We kept our promise,” said winger Baris Alper Yilmaz. “Now we will proceed step by step. We are very happy.”

The Czechs, who needed a win to advance, were left to rue their missed opportunity. Captain Soucek expressed his disappointment, criticising the “disrespectful” red card that had tilted the game. “It is a disappointment because we all wanted to advance,” he said. 

“Everyone did the maximum. The morale was huge. Just a sad end… But that is football.”

Portugal, already assured of top place in the group, surprisingly lost to Georgia, who advanced as one of the best third-placed finishers. The Czechs ended their campaign at the bottom of the group with just one point.

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