Netherlands fight back to see off Turkey and set up semi-final against England

The Netherlands stand between England and a place in next Sunday’s final after a pulsating, dramatic comeback win that was sealed by a superb late save from Bart Verbruggen. His stop from Semih Kilicsoy meant a goal that Cody Gakpo will hope to claim, which followed an equaliser by Stefan de Vrij, proved to be the winner on a night of sizzling noise and tension.

Samet Akaydin had given Turkey a first-half lead and for a long period it seemed that might see them to victory in front of their president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was watching amid the controversy that followed Merih Demiral’s high-profile suspension.

Erdogan arrived at the stadium 25 minutes before kick-off, accompanied by his wife, Emine, and it was a significant moment in an occasion whose buildup had overflowed with bad blood. Demiral’s ban for making a “wolf” gesture associated with an extremist nationalist group during the win over Austria had sparked a diplomatic incident, the Turkish and German governments summoning each other’s ambassadors after the latter’s interior minister, Nancy Faeser, had publicly condemned the sign. If Turkey needed backing beyond the thousands who created an incendiary atmosphere then Erdogan was here to conspicuously provide it.

There had already been a flashpoint on the approach to Olympiastadion, a number of those supporters having decided this was the moment to defiantly perform the salute en masse. Police stopped the fan march for which they had assembled, later writing on X that it was “not a platform for political messages”.

Arda Guler profile

Vincenzo Montella had chosen Akaydin in Demiral’s centre-back position, one of three suspension-enforced changes, and his defence was exposed within a minute. Memphis Depay did much of the hard work when shimmying inside but his finish was wayward and it signalled an open start. The Netherlands, heads cleared by a commanding dismissal of Romania, were working the ball forward sharply and Depay was soon served again, his shot on the turn blocked.

Both teams were finding space in midfield, the return of Turkey’s captain, Hakan Calhanoglu, helping them to construct. His partner in the engine room, Salih Ozcan, blasted over from range but the Netherlands’s threat was, for all the ear-splitting whistles whenever they attacked, more consistent in the opening quarter. Xavi Simons shot off target and, after Gakpo had glided 50 yards, Abdulkerim Bardakci intervened to snuff out the danger.

At that point the main preoccupation for Turkey was the fact they could not sustain possession for any significant spell. But they gradually established a foothold and, when it came, Akaydin’s goal was not a complete surprise. Bardakci had scooped a Calhanoglu free-kick over the bar and Virgil van Dijk had prevented a chance for Baris Alper Yilmaz with some masterful positioning. They won a string of corners and, from the fourth, earned their reward.

It arrived via a delicious cross from Arda Guler, who had been fed on the right after a delivery on the opposite side was half cleared. His outswinger teased Bart Verbruggen away from the goalline without offering realistic hope of claiming and Akaydin, arriving at the far post, powered in his header from an angle. Turkey, rugged and composed by now, had an interval lead.

The Netherlands had run into a brick wall after that early spark. Ronald Koeman looked to his substitutes and found a man adept at demolishing those, replacing Steven Bergwijn with Wout Weghorst for the second half.

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Bart Verbruggen makes a dramatic late save to stop Turkey from taking the game to extra time. Photograph: Alex Grimm/Getty Images

It had little immediate impact and they held their breath when Nathan Aké bundled a breaking Guler over. Had De Vrij not been nearby, De Vrij would surely have been dismissed. Guler looked to dish out punishment regardless, bending an extraordinary low free-kick off Verbruggen’s left upright. His assist had been right-footed; this flourish had come from the other.

The game risked passing the Netherlands by. Van Dijk was next in the book for barging Yilmaz, who had beaten him for speed, on the right touchline. They would have been out of hope if Weghorst, from a position on the floor, had not somehow nicked the ball away from Kaan Ayhan after Verbruggen had spilled a Kenan Yildiz drive.

Instead they were filled with it after Weghorst pulled away at the far post and Mert Gunok tipped his scuffed volley wide. The resulting corner was played back to Depay and De Vrij, unmarked near the penalty spot, leaped to convert emphatically.

Six minutes later the turnaround was complete. The Netherlands had channelled that momentum and now Denzel Dumfries had space on the right to slide a teasing centre along the ground. It curved across goal before a combination of Gakpo and the Turkey right-back Mert Muldur, throwing themselves at the ball, sent it flashing past Gunok.

Turkey had been full of aggression and purpose but looked deflated. They nonetheless roused themselves and De Vrij, blocking near the line from Zeki Celik, averted extra time. Then Verbruggen turned hero and Dortmund will soon be coloured orange.

The Guardian

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