Turkey beat Czech Republic 2-0, face anxious wait for a knockout round spot
LENS, France -- Three quick thoughts from Turkey's 2-0 win over the Czech Republic in Group D...
1. Turkey get it done, now wait to learn their fate
Turkey will be glued to the television on Wednesday, alternately cheering on (or, as the situation evolves, cheering against) the likes of Ireland, Sweden, Iceland and Portugal. That's because, incredibly, they are still alive in Euro 2016 after Tuesday's 2-0 win, although their destiny is in the hands of other teams and their results.
It's a remarkable situation for a nation that lost its two opening matches and went into this game with a goal difference of minus four. But those are the vagaries of the new format. Like a game of eight-ball, you can do everything perfectly and then scratch on black. Or, in this case, the opposite.
Right now, Turkey epitomize the comeback kids particularly when you consider that their own manager, Fatih Terim, had said his players ought to be ashamed and were unfit to represent their nation. On Tuesday they proved their coach wrong and redeemed themselves in the eyes of a heavily pro-Turkey crowd in Lens, who festooned the Stade Bollard-Delelis with red flags and filled it with loud cheers and ear-drum splitting whistles.
It was a sizable task not least because the Czechs also needed to win. From the early stages the game had a genuine ebb-and-flow: two welterweights attacking, inflicting damage and then retreating for their opponent's onslaught.
Turkey's first goal came early. After just eight minutes, Arda Turan laid the ball off to the overlapping Emre Mor. The mop-haired winger screeched down the flank and cut it across for Burak Yilmaz, who used his savvy, size and technique to wheel away from Roman Hubnik and side-foot the ball inside the near post.
In some ways, the goal only ratcheted up the desperation for both teams. Turkey needed a second goal to catch Albania in the ranking of third place teams while the Czechs needed to turn it around. Tomas Sivok hit the post, Tomas Necid poked a finish just wide and Jaroslav Plasil forced Volkan Babacan into a tricky save.
But the crowd never relented, roaring Turkey on. It felt like a home game, the kind when 30,000 sing as one and galvanize their XI on the pitch. They were rewarded when substitute Ozan Tufan materialized to squeeze his finish into Petr Cech's top corner. Fatih Terim roared and then was nearly bowled over when his entire squad bull-rushed him to celebrate.
When managers appeal to their players' pride (or lack thereof), they take a huge gamble; they risk losing the dressing room. But if it works, they look like geniuses. On Tuesday night, Terim was the genius, his players were warriors and the assembled Turkey fans their lifeblood.
Let Wednesday be all about fretting in front of the TV. Tuesday was about victory and pride.
2. Czech Republic fail to adopt attacking approach
On paper, it might appear that everything was lined up for the Czechs and they merely fell at the last hurdle. After all, they only fell 1-0 to a late, late goal against Spain and against Croatia, they came back from two goals down to snatch a point. In fact, Pavel Vrba's brand of football in this tournament left a lot to be desired especially given how well they had qualified, topping a group that included Iceland, the Dutch and, coincidentally, Turkey.
Instead, in the first two group games Vrba opted for an approach that was far too conservative. You should not let the scorelines fool you. Spain could have had three or four and it was Croatia who let the game slip away amidst the madness of the flares. Against Turkey, they had to go and do something they had not yet even really attempted in this tournament: take the game to the opposition and win. And they had to do it while their opponents, themselves desperate for a victory, were also trying to take the game to them.
Pride and intensity weren't the problem in Lens -- they showed plenty of it. What was missing was execution. It was simply too much to ask of a side that had been set up not to concede and suddenly had to change its stripes.
3. Flares get in again at Euro 2016
This was the 31st game of the 2016 European Championships and despite the pre-tournament threat of terrorism, we've had flares or some kind of pyrotechnic device at more than half a dozen games.
In Lens, we got the whole gamut: smoke bombs, firecrackers, guys holding flares and then, after Tufan made it 2-0 in the 65th minute, at least three flares which sailed through the air and on to the pitch from the Turkish end. Goalkeeper Babacan had to do double duty: he picked one up and casually tossed it off the playing surface.
It should be said these were joyous pyrotechnics, celebratory flares and smokebombs. And sure, in some countries, it's part of the football spectacle. But they are explicitly banned at Euro 2016 and with good reason. If someone can sneak in a flare, perhaps they could sneak in something much worse.
UEFA can fine FAs, make them play qualifiers behind closed doors and whatever else. But their anger should also be directed at stadium security. Way too much stuff is getting into the grounds at Euro 2016. And that's just not acceptable.
Gabriele Marcotti is a senior writer for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @Marcotti.