Euro 2024

 Turkey secured a place in the Euro 2024 knockout phase for the first time in 16 years, defeating a tenacious Czech Republic 2-1 on Wednesday. Goals from Hakan Calhanoglu and Cenk Tosun ensured Turkey’s progression while eliminating the Czechs.

In a heated contest, Czech midfielder Antonin Barak received the earliest red card in Euro’s history, reducing his team to 10 men in the 20th minute. The match played on a sweltering night in Hamburg, was marred by 18 yellow cards and another red shown to Tomas Chory after the final whistle.

Turkey took the lead in the 51st minute when Calhanoglu powered a shot into the bottom corner, capitalising on an injury to Czech goalkeeper Jindrich Stanek, who was replaced by Matej Kovar. The Czechs, undeterred, equalised through Tomas Soucek midway through the second half, setting up a frantic finale.

“We are upset, everyone wanted to advance, we had the right mindset,” said Soucek. “It was terribly hard with ten men. We levelled and pushed them until the last minute but then we conceded another.”

Turkey’s supporters created a raucous atmosphere, with tens of thousands jeering every Czech touch. Lukas Provod forced an early save from Turkish goalkeeper Mert Gunok, and Czech long throw-ins from Vladimir Coufal posed constant threats. However, Barak’s red card for a challenge on Salih Ozcan proved pivotal.

Despite the numerical advantage, Turkey struggled to break down the Czech defence and almost fell behind when David Jurasek was denied by Gunok. The Turks started brightly after the break, and Calhanoglu’s goal released the pressure.

Turkey’s teenage star Arda Guler missed a close-range chance to extend the lead. Soucek’s equaliser came after Gunok spilled the ball following another Coufal throw-in, with the goal standing after a VAR review for a possible foul and handball.

As the Czechs pushed for a winner, Turkey hit them on the counter-attack. Tosun’s stoppage-time strike secured the victory and Turkey’s place in the last 16, where they will face Austria in Leipzig on Tuesday.

“We are very happy,” said Turkey winger Baris Alper Yilmaz. “When we talked with our friends before the camp, our only goal was to get out of the group. We kept our promise.”

The Czech Republic’s elimination was confirmed as they finished bottom of Group F with just one point. Portugal, already top of the group, lost to Georgia, who advanced as one of the best third-placed teams, eliminating Hungary.

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