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How Czech Republic v Turkey became the dirtiest game in Euros history

SportsHow Czech Republic v Turkey became the dirtiest game in Euros history


As Cenk Tosun finished off a seven-on-four counter-attack in injury time, the Turkey bench were off their seats to celebrate a 2-1 victory that sealed their qualification for the knockout stages.

It was chaotic stuff, and yet that was only the start of it. In the madcap aftermath, Romanian referee Istvan Kovacs handed out five bookings, extending the record set 20 minutes earlier for the most cards awarded in a single game at a European Championship.

Of the 18 cards shown, 16 were yellows and two were reds. Most curiously, five of the 18 were given to players who were not even on the field of play. 

It was, by a distance, the dirtiest game in Euros history. So what happened?


The game started well for the Czech Republic, who were disturbing Turkey’s superior midfield technicians with a man-to-man pressing system.

Then came a setback: an 11th-minute yellow card for Antonin Barak. Kovacs correctly punished the Fiorentina midfielder for dragging down left-back Ferdi Kadioglu.

That should have been the cue for Barak to play it safe for the rest of the game by avoiding risky tackles, but the 29-year-old was having none of it.

In the 20th minute, after taking a smart touch away from the challenge of Ismail Yuksek, Barak was quickly converged upon by two Turkey midfielders near the halfway line.

With the ball getting away from him and Hakan Calhanoglu closing fast, Barak stuck out his left foot in a desperate attempt to take it before Salih Ozcan.

Ozcan won the race and Barak stood on his foot, leaving him in a heap. After initially handing advantage to Turkey, Kovacs pulled play back for a foul and gave Barak his second yellow — the earliest sending-off in Euro’s history, beating the record held by former France defender Eric Abidal (24 minutes against Italy at Euro 2008).

The decision split pundits and commentators, with Andros Townsend on UK broadcaster ITV believing he had been harshly treated.

“This one was even more baffling. He’s in possession of the ball; he taps it away,” said Townsend. “It’s his follow-through that catches the Turkish player. You can always slow it down and freeze-frame it, but ultimately, he’s in possession of the ball.”

Either way, a player of Barak’s experience should know not to take risks in midfield in a must-win game having already been booked.

After Ozcan was booked in the 31st minute, the next card went to Czech striker Patrik Schick, who was not even on the pitch. The Bayer Leverkusen player was awarded a yellow for dissent and would have missed the Czech Republic’s last-16 game if they had qualified given he had picked up a yellow earlier in the tournament.

Schick, who is the Czech Republic’s all-time leading scorer at the Euros, was cautioned after he was seen forcefully pleading the case that Ismail Yuksek should have been booked for a forceful challenge on Lukas Provod, who was left writhing on the floor.

Yuksek won the ball fairly cleanly, but given the contentious nature of Barak’s second yellow, he might have had a point.

A few minutes later, Juventus winger Kenan Yildiz received Turkey’s second yellow card of the night. After beating West Ham full-back Vladimir Coufal, Yildiz lost the ball to centre-back Robin Hranac. Yildiz left a tasty challenge on Hranac, who rolled around rather dramatically.

Had the referee not awarded Yildiz a yellow, there might have been a mutiny in the Czech dugout.

In between that decision and the real drama which took place after the final whistle, there were yellow cards handed out to Calhanoglu, who scored Turkey’s brilliant opener in the 51st minute, Mert Muldur, Vitezslav Jaros, Lukas Cerv and backup goalkeeper Ugurcan Cakir, who will miss Turkey’s round-of-16 tie against Austria next Tuesday.

By the time stoppage time began at the end of the game, the Euros record for cards in a game had already been comfortably eclipsed (14 yellows and one red, beating the previous high of 10). But after Tosun grabbed the winner, the drama really began.

With the Czech Republic on their way home, Turkey’s exuberant celebrations at the final whistle proved too much for many of their players. West Ham’s Tomas Soucek was the first to take exception to Orkun Kokcu fist-pumping in the middle of the pitch.

Shortly after, players and coaches from the sidelines ran onto the field to join a scuffle that was breaking out near the halfway line.

A red card — the Czech Republic’s second of the night — was then shown to Viktoria Plzen striker Tomas Chory, who had become involved in a physical tussle with Mert Gunok, Turkey’s No 1 goalkeeper.

As the referee struggled to keep control, he handed out yellow cards to Soucek and Arda Guler, Turkey’s wonderkid attacker who scored six goals in 10 league appearances for Real Madrid last season.

From a football perspective, this game was probably of little consequence. But thanks to its glorious lawlessness, especially in the dying moments, it now occupies a special place in Euro history.

(Top photo: Christophe Simon/AFP via Getty Images)



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