Watching the unlikely Turkish dash to the semifinals of Euro 2008 has infected me with a severe case of déjà vu. For those who've been living in a cave or are too patriotic to dirty their noses grubbing in the steaming piles of Eurotrash, the Turks mounted an improbably late comeback victory against the Czechs in their final group match to book their passage to the quarterfinals, where they proceeded to carry out an even more improbable win against Croatia. When the Croats netted in the 119th minute in extra time, all seemed lost. But just seconds later, a bouncing ball in the box was fired home by the men from Asia Minor. Predictably, the emotionally shattered Croats fell apart from the spot and bowed out of the Euros.
Now, if you'll permit a bit of nostalgia . . . I'm being reminded of another unfancied set of underdogs clad in all red with a white horizontal stripe across their chests. This would be a few years ago now, when Middlesbrough made an extraordinary run to the UEFA Cup final on the back of a string of last minute heroics, luck, and precious little else. Heck, the Turks even have a Boro connection in Tuncay (though he wasn't with them during that magical run of yesteryear), and a possible hammering by some Spanish blokes in the final (Sevilla did the honors for Boro in 2006).
So what's with the "Watch your back, Fabio!" nonsense? Well, I seem to recall that once upon a time, England had a certain manager who made his name in Italian and Iberian club futbol. When that man bowed out after the World Cup, he was succeeded by . . . Middlesbrough's own Steve McLaren, fresh off of that remarkable 2006 UEFA Cup run! Not that I give any credit to the likelihood of Fabio Capello shuffling off stage left anytime soon, nor do I expect that Fatih Terim is on the FA's shortlist, but déjà vu and coincidence play some funny little tricks, particularly when your brain is soaking in a stew of too little sleep and too much futbol.