Turkish Delight in Dortmund Euro 2024

Turkey 3:1 Georgia, Group F, Dortmund

Turkey 3:1 Georgia, Group F, Dortmund.
Turkey Reign in the Rain

Anyone not bothering with Turkey v Georgia missed a cracker of a clash in Dortmund. The lashing rain in the Westfalenstadion and two sides really going for it made for a cup tie atmosphere and a game full of thrills and spills right to the end.

Whilst a monsoon is no weather for football, I do like a rainy early group game in a tournament. It is something to do with a temporary cooling of passions and a reminder of nature above it all, with the reassurance you still have another chance of qualifying at the end even if you lose.

Turkey had the back story of having missed out on the 2006 World Cup in Germany whilst having its biggest expat community. So many Turks have made it their home since the Fifties that one associates leisure in Germany with a kebab or shawarma as much as with a large bier or Bavarian bratwurst.

This hinterland could be one of the big cultural stories of Euro 2024 if Turkey advance and Ottoman cheers echoed all over Deutschland today, as the Crescent Stars opened their campaign with a victory.

Georgia is ranked 75th in the world for football but 13th for rugby, their national sport. Still, their first appearance at the finals made me think of a trio of fine Georgians I saw play football in the 1990s- Manchester City's mini-Maradona Giorgi Kinkladze,  Newcastle's bald warrior Temur Ketsbaia and Ajax and Rangers' marksman Shota Arveladze.

Today was their first ever finals game and although 3-1 sounds like a bit of a drubbing, the Crusaders won plenty of plaudits for a fearless fight with the Turks. That is a medieval simile but the two countries share a border along the Caucasus but are split by Muslim and Orthodox cultures. The past still speaks.

I was at Turkey's much anticipated first ever Euros game in Nottingham in 1996, where despite a similarly gallant effort they lost to a late strike to Croatia who were also making their Euros debut that night. Turkey did not even score at that tournament but six years later were in the World Cup semi final.

Today after a lukewarm start the game exploded with Turkish delight midway through the first half. Two minutes after Kaan Ayhan had struck the post, Mert Muldur, or should that be Gerd Muller, hit a swerving half-volley right onto the postage stamp from the edge of the box. Muldur's missile was a marvel of technique, probably edging Nicolo Barella for goal of the tournament so far.

1-0 looked like 2-0 a couple of minutes later when Kenan Yildiz tapped in, only for VAR, the kryptonite of Romelu Lukaku yesterday, to rule it out for half a shoe of illegality. 

Georgia then fought back with a piece of trickery from Giorgi Kochorashvili to whip back a centre for Georges Mikautadze to slot home and puncture a period of Turkish dominance. That pair who combined so sweetly play for Levante and Metz respectively. That is another thing I love about tournaments - little clubs and countries get to shine.

A great first half ended with Georgia ascendant but Turkey had a saviour up their sleeve in teenager Arda Guler. He might have only played seven times for Real Madrid but his transfer value has just shot up as he hit another Turkish swerver into the top corner after 65 minutes.

The Georgian defence had allowed him too much room outside the box but it was still a sweet strike, the first from a teenage debutant in the Euros since a certain Cristiano Ronaldo in 2004. 

With Guler's star rising as the young player of the tournament, Georgia kept fighting and hit the woodwork twice. With their goalie up the field in the dying seconds, Turkey broke away and Kerem Atkertoglu guided the ball into an empty net to seal the win. Great theatre.

In the closing minutes the wall of Turkish sound reminded one of all those tense Champions League ties at Galatasaray and Fenerbahce.

What a contest, just the entertainment we want from the Euros. More of that please.

Euro 2024

Hotels in Germany

Euro 2024 Group A

Euro 2024 Group B

Euro 2024 Group C

Euro 2024 Group D

Euro 2024 Group E

Euro 2024 Group F

Germany v Scotland

First Weekend

How To Lose a Win

Bratwurst & Fußball

The Group Stage in Stats

Oranje Juiced by Watkins' Wizardry

The Wisdom of Hindsight

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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