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Demiral double sends Turkey into Euro 2024 quarters at Austria’s expense

Merih Demiral emerged as Turkey’s unexpected hero, scoring both goals in a 2-1 victory over Austria on Tuesday that secured their place in the Euro 2024 quarter-finals.

The Al-Ahli center-back struck early with a powerful shot just 58 seconds into the match and later doubled Turkey’s lead with a commanding header in the 60th minute.

Austria’s Michael Gregoritsch quickly pulled one back, and only a spectacular save from Mert Gunok denied Christoph Baumgartner a dramatic equalizer deep into stoppage time.

Turkey now advances to face the Netherlands in the quarter-finals in Berlin on Saturday.

Turkey coach Vincenzo Montella praised Gunok’s crucial save, saying, “I’m happy for him, for the team, for the country, and for the group we have here.”

Austria, previously considered dark horses after topping a group including France and the Netherlands, struggled to recover from a difficult start.

“I can’t believe we’re going home. We expected to continue our journey here and prepare for the next games,” said Austria’s coach Ralf Rangnick. “That’s the nature of knockout games—one team progresses, and the other doesn’t. Disappointment is the prevailing feeling.”

Real Madrid’s Arda Guler posed a continuous threat to Austria’s defense, causing chaos early on with a teasing delivery from a corner.

Despite Baumgartner’s attempt to clear off the line hitting teammate Stefan Posch and allowing Demiral to score, Austria nearly equalized soon after with Baumgartner firing narrowly wide from the edge of the box.

Montella noted the absence of captain Hakan Calhanoglu due to suspension, describing him as “irreplaceable,” but praised Guler for taking on the playmaking role effectively.

At halftime, Rangnick made tactical adjustments, introducing Gregoritsch, who initially impacted the game positively as Austria intensified their attacks.

Gunok made a crucial save against Marko Arnautovic and denied Konrad Laimer, but Austria failed to defend effectively against Guler’s corners, allowing Demiral to score his second goal of the match.

Demiral made history as the first European defender to score twice in the knockout stages of a major tournament since Lillian Thuram at the 1998 World Cup.

Austria managed to narrow the deficit with Gregoritsch’s goal from Marcel Sabitzer’s corner, setting up a tense finale amidst a torrential downpour in Leipzig.

The fervent atmosphere turned sour briefly as an object thrown from the crowd struck Sabitzer during a corner.

Turkey’s Baris Alper Yilmaz was denied a third goal by Pentz’s fine save in stoppage time, and Gunok’s remarkable stop from Baumgartner’s header preserved Turkey’s victory.

Turkey’s resilient defense withstood Austria’s aerial bombardment to reach the quarter-finals of a major tournament for the first time since Euro 2008.

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