Euro 2008: When Spain came good and Turkey thrilled

By Paul FletcherBBC Sport

Spain supporters used to have a phrase that roughly translated as "we just come here to drink and do not care about the score". That changed at Euro 2008.

It was the tournament when Spain finally cast aside their reputation as perennial under-achievers at international level, starting a journey that would see them crowned world champions two years later, and one which shows no sign of ending.

As the hours ticked down to the final on a sunny Sunday in Vienna, many around the Ernst Happel Stadium thought that the mental strength of a rejuvenated German side astutely coached by Joachim Loew would see them overcome Luis Aragones' Spain.

Far from it. This was the period when Fernando Torres' star shone and his finish in the final epitomised the confidence, speed and composure that had been emblematic of his team's progress through the tournament.

"From that day onwards everything changed in Spanish football," said former Spain defender Albert Ferrer.

"It had a massive effect - particularly the self-confidence. Before we did not have the answer as to why we had not won a major tournament for so long, since Euro 1964."

Ferrer, once of Chelsea, was in the side that lost at the quarter-final stage of the 1994 World Cup.

"For so long it had always been the same history, we always had the players but we had never won," he added. "Winning Euro 2008 was a great moment for former Spanish players who got to major tournaments but did not win them. At last someone gave us the happiness of that winning moment."

Spain were undefeated in all their games, scoring 12 goals and conceding three. By the end nobody was talking about Raul, controversially left out of the squad before the tournament. Instead the focus was firmly on a team that had shown that clever angles, adept utilisation of space and breathtaking speed of thought could conquer all.

But Euro 2008 was about much more than the triumph of Spain.

It might have been miserable for the co-hosts, neither of whom qualified from their respective groups, while several heavily fancied teams such as France, thrashed 4-1 by the Dutch on their way to finishing bottom of Group C, performed dismally.

But it was a tournament full of late goals and surprise packages. No wonder people dubbed it Euro two-thousand-and-great (try saying it out loud with a Geordie accent).

No side provided more thrills and entertainment than Turkey, who scored a late winner against co-hosts Switzerland and twice in the last three minutes to stun the Czech Republic, as well as a last-gasp extra-time equaliser against Croatia before winning the subsequent penalty shoot-out 3-1.

They struck late in their semi-final against Germany but opposition full-back Phillip Lahm scored even later to prevent the match from going to extra-time, and with it extinguish Turkey's hopes of reaching their first major final.

Former Bury, Brighton and Sheffield United forward Colin Kazim-Richards played in every game for Turkey in the tournament.

"It was just unbelievable," said British-born Kazim-Richards, who now plays in Greece for Olympiakos.

"We were in camp for several weeks beforehand and during the tournament it can feel like you are in a hotel all the time. But I was just 21 and looking back, it was crazy. The atmosphere inside the grounds was electrifying and there was so much media coverage."

Once known as the 'Coca-Cola Kid' after Brighton funded their purchase of him with cash won by a Seagulls fan in a competition run by the drinks company, Kazim-Richards had moved to Turkish side Fenerbahce in June 2007, just days after making his debut for the national team in a friendly against Brazil.

"In less than a year I had gone from Sheffield United to the semi-finals at Euro 2008," he said.

"Late in 2007 I was named in a provisional Turkey squad of 32 players. I thought I was in there to gain experience and as an encouragement to play well. When I made the 23-man cut it was like 'wow', especially given that players such as Hakan Sukur and Yildiray Basturk had been dropped."

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo asked Kazim-Richards to swap shirts at the end of their group match and the Leytonstone-born winger, who supports Arsenal, struck the woodwork twice against Germany in their memorable semi-final encounter in Basle.

"We scored off the second rebound, although I would have loved for that goal to be mine," added Kazim-Richards. "The first time my shot rattled the crossbar and came miles out, way out of the 18-yard box before it bounced.

"I think we deserved to beat Germany and I think we would definitely have given Spain a better test in the final."

Turkey will not get the opportunity to repeat their heroics this time around in Poland and Ukraine after losing a play-off tie against Croatia, but Kazim-Richards, who has 35 caps, is confident that his nation will be back in the big time soon.

"At Euro 2008 we exceeded people's expectations," he said. "And right now we have got another great bunch of young players coming through."

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