Demiral double sends Turkiye to Euro 2024 last eight

Merih Demiral flew the Roshn Saudi League flag high at the UEFA European Championship Germany 2024 on Tuesday, scoring a double to book Turkiye’s place in the quarter-finals, winning another Player of the Match award for the Kingdom’s top flight, and even taking his place in history, too.

All in an evening’s work for the Al Ahli defender. The Turkey centre-back, who signed for the Jeddah club last summer from Italy’s Atalanta, was the star of his national team’s thrilling 2-1 victory against Austria in Leipzig.

Demiral took less than a minute to open the scoring at Red Bull Arena, when he lashed home a rebound from close-range to set underdogs Turkiye on their way. The finish, officially clocked at only 57 seconds, entered the record books as the quickest knockout-stage goal in Euros history.

Not done there, Demiral then doubled Turkiye’s advantage just before the hour. This time, he rose highest in the Austria penalty area to powerfully head home Arda Guler’s whipped corner and send the majority Turkish-supporting crowd wild.

Demiral, 26, is the first defender to score twice in a knockout round of a major tournament since Lilian Thuram for France against Croatia in the 1998 FIFA World Cup semi-final.

Demiral, who made 20 appearances in last season’s RSL as Al Ahli finished third, then led an incredible defensive resistance for Turkiye to eventually win through. Indeed, Demiral’s 17 clearances represented the most of any player in a single match at the Euros since 2008, while he also contributed four blocks, three interceptions and won six ariel duels.

It was a sensational performance that deservedly earned him the Player of the Match award. It marked the fourth such honour for a RSL player at the tournament, following on from Damac and Romania captain Nicolae Stanciu, and twin nods for Al Ittihad and France midfielder N’Golo Kante.

Turkiye, who have reached the quarter-finals only once before, in 2000, now take on the Netherlands in Saturday’s last-eight clash in Berlin. There, Demiral could go up against fellow RSL star Georginio Wijnaldum.

The Al Ettifaq captain was an unused substitute in the Netherlands’ 3-0 victory against Romania earlier on Tuesday. Stanciu, who scored a goal-of-the-tournament contender on Matchday One, made his fourth successive start in Germany for Romania, as did Al Okhdood defender Andrei Burca.