What: Euro 2008 Semi-Final 1
Who: Germany (2nd, Group B) vs Turkey (2nd, Group A)
When: Wednesday 25 June 2008, 20:45 CET
Where: St. Jakob-Park, Basel, Switzerland
Referee: Massimo Busacca (Switzerland)
The Walking Wounded
The Turks enter the match as underdogs not only on reputation, but also in terms of squad. That's not so much because their pool of 23 players lacks class, but rather it's down to the fact that only around half are available to play. With four suspensions, two confirmed injury absentees and a further three doubtful, just 12 men are guaranteed available - and two of them are goalkeepers!
It's far from ideal for Fatih Terim, but his side have shown that they are capable of overcoming adversity, if nothing else. On no fewer than three occasions in this tournament they've shown themselves able to fight back in the nick of time: first they banished memories of an opening day loss against Portugal by edging the Swiss, and then they stunned the Czech Republic courtesy of a brace from the now-injured Nihat Kahveci to secure their passage to the quarter finals.
There they met on-form Croatia, but sent the Balkan boys crashing out of the tournament with yet another spirited late showing. That raised confidence on so many levels: not only have Turkey now matched their feat of finishing third in the 2002 World Cup, but they also managed to oust a group leader.
Germany, of course, finished second to the Croatians in Group B, and as such they could be considered by some measures an even easier proposition. But the might of the Nationalelf can simply never be dismissed.
At least that will be the thought in the German camp. With characteristic confidence the Nationalelf head into this fixture intent on winning, and they have a full squad available with which to do so.
Germany are no strangers to this stage of the competition, having reached either the final four or the last two on seven occasions (inclusive of this one) since their first appearance in the competition back in 1972.
That said, they've had some gaffes along the way. Not only did they fail to qualify in 1968, but the last two championships saw them crash out at the first stage, failing to win a match in either Belgium-Holland or Portugal.
This was simply unacceptable, not least because they'd sandwiched a World Cup final appearance in between these two tournaments, showing that the flesh was not weak but perhaps the spirit was. Still, Löw has Germany on track in this tournament and will now aim for high success.
One factor playing in his favour is the strength of his squad: another is that Basel is about as within spitting distance of the Fatherland. Not that this will discourage Turkey, of course: the huge expatriate/diaspora community in this part of the world will be out in force, as will some hardy travelling fans.
Since German reunification the sides have met on four occasions. Turkey won the first two 1-0, the third was drawn 0-0, and the fourth - the only match played this century - saw Turkey oust Germany 2-1 in Istanbul in a friendly.
The old West Germany beat the Turks ten times, drawing twice and losing just once - in the first meeting between the sides, funnily enough, in West Berlin in 1951. (The old East Germany met Turkey five times, winning once, drawing once and then losing three in succession.)
19/06/08 Portugal 2 Germany 3 (Euro 2008)
16/06/08 Austria 0 Germany 1 (Euro 2008)
12/08/08 Germany 1 Croatia 2 (Euro 2008)
08/06/08 Germany 2 Poland (Euro 2008)
31/05/08 Germany 2 Serbia 1 (Friendly)
27/05/08 Germany 2 Belarus 2 (Friendly)
15/06/08 Czech Rep. 2 Turkey 3 (Euro 2008)
07/06/08 Turkey 0 Portugal 2 (Euro 2008)
29/05/08 Turkey 2 Finland 0 (Friendly)
25/05/08 Turkey 2 Uruguay 3 (Friendly)
20/05/08 Slovakia 0 Turkey 1 (Friendly)
With absolutely no injury or suspension worries at the moment, Joachim Löw has a full complement of players available to meet the Crescent-Stars. The Nationalelf are likely to line up 4-4-2 with on-fire Miroslav Klose and Mario Gomez leading the line, and on-form Lukas Podolski breaking in from the flank.
Possible Starting XI: Lehmann; Lahm, Mertesacker, Metzelder, Jansen; Schweinsteiger, Ballack, Frings/Rolfes, Podolski; Klose, Gomez.
Tuncay Sanli, Arda Turan and Emre Asik have joined the suspension list. Volkan Demirel, too, remains banned, although Mehmet Aurelio returns from his own sanction. Injury problems have hit the side hard, though: Nihat Kahveci and Emre Gungor are definitely out, while Emre Belozoglu, Servet Cetin and Tumer Metin are doubtful. Third-choice goalkeeper Tolga Zengin could be named as an outfield substitute.
Possible Starting XI: Rustu Recber; Altintop, Emre Asik, Gokhan Zan, Balta; Kazim-Richards, Aurelio, Tumer Metin, Karadeniz; Erding, Semih Senturk.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Germany - Michael Ballack: Ballack is Germany's second-highest scorer in the tournament so far, his two strikes putting him just behing Lukas Podolski. Moreover, the veteran Chelsea man has begun to return to his best form at Euro 2008 and must be considered a key influence ahead of this encounter, not least as he dons the captain's armband.
Turkey - Gokhan Zan: The Besiktas stopper is highly likely to line up as he strides past the 20 cap mark, and it's time for him to take the lessons learned in European football with the Black Eagles and apply them to the national team. Germany are strongly expected to surge forward and he'll need to be up to the challenge.
I did not have faith in Turkey to progress in the last round and was proved wrong. This time around, I feel that injuries and suspensions will ultimately trump character and guile, and Germany will emerge the victors. Let's see if I'm right!
Germany 2-1 Turkey
Ewan Macdonald, Goal.com