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21 Jun 2008 10:24
The last two minutes of Croatia’s loss to Turkey will torment Slaven Bilic for the rest of his life.
“The misfortune will chase us like a nightmare, forever,” the Croatia coach said of his team’s dramatic 3-1 penalty shootout loss in the in the European Championship quarterfinals.
After a scoreless 90 minutes, Ivan Klasnic gave Croatia the lead with a header in 119th minute, triggering wild celebrations by jubilant Croatian fans. Even Bilic was running around the field, thinking it was all over.
But the Turks, who have rallied to win their two pervious matches at Euro 2008, did not give up, scoring in the last minute of extra time on a spectacular volley by Semih Senturk, driving the game into a penalty shootout.
“The last two minutes of the game will torment us all our lives,” Bilic said.
“Conceding a goal in the last minute of extra time ...
Turkey’s never-say-die attitude has left Bilic and his players in shock. “The Turks are like a cat with nine lives,” he said. “With that luck and quality which they obviously possess, they can beat Germany in the semifinals.”
He said his players had it tough concentrating on the penalty kicks after the last-gasp Turkish equaliser.
“The fall of concentration, panic and tiredness all contributed to the poor penalty kicks,” Bilic said. “It was tough for them psychologically after that happened in extra time.”
Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic missed their penalty shots for Croatia, while Darijo Srna scored the team’s only penalty.
“The penalties are pure lottery,” Bilic said. “A goal in the last second of the match is pure misfortune.”
Bilic said that knowing the history of Turkish comebacks at the tournament, he didn’t think it was all over when Klasnic scored.
“We knew that they would go all out and press us,” he said. “But, the time was running out for them and even that last attack they made, they only had a few players in the attack. But the fortune was again on their side and we were in shock. I congratulate the Turks, but I believe that we deserved to win.”
The Croats went packing after three victories in three group matches. They beat co-hosts Austria 1-0 in their opener, three-time champions Germany 2-1 and Poland 1-0 with a reserve team to save players for the match against Turkey.
“I have nothing to blame the players for,” Bilic said. “They will go home proud of what they did, but with that bitter feeling that they could have done much more.”—Sapa-AP
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