Turkey will always be remembered as the greatest escape artist of the European Championship. The Germans, though, staged the latest escape.
In the most unpredictable of finales marked by three goals in the last dozen minutes, it was Germany which scored last Wednesday with a sweeping 90th-minute move by Philipp Lahm which ended when he sent the ball high up in the net for a 3-2 win.
Now, the Germans will play either Spain or Russia in Sunday's final in Vienna, boosted by an emotional win showing it can even prevail when star captain Michael Ballack is ineffective.
"We showed our winners' mentality. After 2-2 we knew that they can score late and it speaks for our will and character," Germany coach Joachim Loew said.
Turkey's fate could have been considered cruel, if only it had not inflicted the same on Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Croatia with three stirring late comebacks to reach the semifinals.
It even dominated Germany for most of the match with a duct-tape team ravaged by injury and suspension before succumbing in the final moments.
"It showed the world what a good team we are. We are leaving as the most colorful team," Turkey coach Fatih Terim said.
Going into the final, Germany has more the color of its famed white shirts. Overall it looked bleak, failed to impose play against the heaviest of underdogs and looked disheveled early on. Yet, as so often, when the final whistle went, their arms went up in celebration.
"We scored three goals and that was decisive," Loew said.
Two came in the final minutes.
Miroslav Klose seemed to have closed out the match for Germany in the 79th. Lahm sent a long cross into the penalty area, where Klose cut in front of Mehmet Topal and a hopelessly out of position Recber to head into the empty net.
It was not counting on the comeback kids of the tournament.
Semih Senturk kept Turkey in the game with an 86th-minute equalizer. He beat Jens Lehmann at the near post after surging in to deflect a low cross from Sabri Sarioglu, who had fooled Lahm with a classy move.
With the Turkish fans celebrating wildly, Lahm immediately sought and found redemption to decide a classic game. He cut in from left, set up a one-two with Thomas Hitzlsperger, collected the ball and shot it past Rustu Recber to unleash the joy of about 20,000 German fans at St. Jakob Park.
"It was my most important goal," said Lahm, especially since it came immediately after his error. "In the moments leading up to 2-2, I certainly looked bad. It happens to me too," he said.
And after so many thrilling finishes at the championships. this one topped it all.
"Totally crazy feeling," Loew said. "It was unbelievable. It was a crazy, incredible drama with all these goals in the final minutes.
"It was very tough to come back after 2-2. They always score in the last minute," Loew added.
In the first half, Ugur Boral gave Turkey the lead in the 22nd, but Bastian Schweinsteiger equalized in the 26th.
Turkey dominated long spells of the match despite four suspensions and five injuries, proving its run of extraordinary comeback victories was no fluke.
"I said I would have 11 players on the field and I did," Terim said.
With a fully fit team, Germany struggled throughout as Ballack could not inspire the forward line.
"We had no clear line in our game," Loew said.
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