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Alarm bells sounding for Everton

Everton
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Will Turkey's luck finally run out?

Everyone needs a touch of luck to succeed in a major tournament and Turkey have certainly had that so far.

Fatih Terim's never-say-die Turks have certainly had the rub of the green en route to the last-four of this tournament; a string of last-gasp goals, Petr Cech's handling howler in the Group A decider against the Czech Republic, Croat striker Ivica Olic hitting the bar when it seemed easier to score in the quarter-final and a penalty shoot-out victory in the same game.

However, no one could possibly say fortune is entirely favouring the young Turks - average age 26 - as they build up for their semi-final date with Germany in Basel on Wednesday. An endless roll call of injuries and suspensions has cut Terim's options to the bone and the ever-volatile coach will not need to ponder long over his starting eleven.

If not banned or infirm, you are in. For their most important game since a World Cup 2002 semi-final loss to Brazil, the Turks would dearly have loved to be at full strength.

Unfortunately, it's not to be. Red and yellow cards will keep goalie Volkan Demirel, attacking midfielders Arda Turan and Tuncay Sanli and centre-back Emre Asik in the stands, while defenders Servet Cetin and Emre Gungor and midfield men Emre Belozoglu, Ayhan Akman and Tumer Metin are all facing a race against the clock to be fit.

Definitely out of the running to feature in the semi is skipper and main striker and groin injury victim Nihat Kahveci, who will be badly missed. He was in excellent goal scoring touch for Spanish outfit Villarreal last season and demonstrated his talent as a finisher out here with a brace in the come from behind win over the Czechs.

With their assassin in chief unavailable, the onus will be on Semih Senturk and the London-born Colin Kazim-Richards to take up the slack up front. No easy task.

By contrast, German boss Joachim Low almost has a full compliment of players at his disposal. The one exception is midfield warrior, Torsten Frings. He missed the quarter-final beating of Portugal with a cracked rib but is hopeful recovering in time to face the Turks.

Frings is a key performer for the Nationalmannschaft, offering drive, ball-winning ability and general leadership. But if he does not make it, Low is unlikely to lose any sleep over it. Against Portugal Frings' deputy, Simon Rolfes of Bayer Leverkusen gave a faultless display.

The odds of a depleted and drained Turkey upsetting the mighty Germans do, on the surface, appear slim, yet Mission Impossible it is not. Writing off a side which refuses to accept its fate, who has a habit of grasping victory from the jaws of defeat, is a hazardous business.

'You can be lucky once, maybe twice but when a side constantly manages to turn around difficult situations, you must consider its character and unity,' says former Turkey manager Mustafa Denizli.

'Some might look at the team coming from two goals down to beat the Czechs, and equalising in time added-on against Croatia and conclude miracles had taken place. I think it was more down to its collective force and mental toughness. They simply refused to be beaten.

'One thing you can be sure of is that our team will not be at all overawed by a semi-final with Germany. They will not be scared by Ballack, Podolski or Schweinsteiger. We have a more than reasonable chance of reaching the first final of our history. As you saw in the Croatia game we are well organised at the back. The Croats have a lot of attacking talent but didn't get the better of us very often. We're good counter-attackers and I'd go as far to say we are a better technical team than Germany,' says Denizli.

Turkish sports journalist Tanil Bora of Taz also tends to be upbeat: 'Yes we've several key players missing but we obviously have a group which has no problem rising to the greatest of challenges. The positive results have bred huge confidence and the squad totally believes Fatih Terim when he tells them they can go all the way.'

Just as they have done in so many competitions over the last half-century, Germany look to be reaching peak levels of performance at just the right moment. In their first round group they were disastrous in the 2-1 loss to Croatia and merely average when disposing of Poland and Austria. But when it came to the crunch against the highly-fancied Portugal, the Nationalmannschaft really came good.

'On the basis of our display against the Portuguese, you'd have to say we have the look of potential European champions,' says former German international central defender Jurgen Kohler. 'The team played with great solidity, purpose and attacking flair. There's a togetherness and ambition about the German squad that's wonderful to see.

'We have a definite plus in the tactical expertise of the German coach Joachim Low. His decision to switch from 4-4-2 to a 4-5-1 was the key to the Portugal win. We packed the midfield and managed to crowd-out the threat posed by Deco, Cristiano Ronaldo and Simao.

'I was impressed too by how well our attacking game worked. After his red card against Croatia, Bastian Schweinsteiger was sensational. He had a point to prove and did it superbly; he was involved in all three of our goals and you can't ask for anymore than that. Add his creativity to the goal scoring ability of Michael Ballack, Lukas Podolski and Miro Klose and you have in my opinion, more than enough firepower,' adds Kohler.

Former West Germany striker and captain Uwe Seeler feels beating Portugal could well be the 90-minutes which forged their fourth continental title: 'Up until Portugal we weren't particularly on our game, but we pride ourselves on being a side which blossoms as tournament goes on and against Cristiano Ronaldo and the rest we exploded into life.

'Now everybody's full of self-belief and all the fear has disappeared. Turkey and Germany have close ties and it will be a game with a special atmosphere, but I can't imagine anything other than a German victory. The Turks are talented footballers and clearly are a team not to be killed off easily, but when Germany are on a roll like I think they are, we take some stopping', contends Seeler.

Few can imagine anything other than a Germany victory, but we have said that in Turkey's last two games. Can lightning really strike thrice?


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