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germany-turkey (spoilers)

I won't talk about the actual match for a bit, so spoiler-phobes have a chance to quit reading.

It's been a pleasure having all of the Euro 2008 matches available to us here in the States. The announcing has even been OK, and in the case of Andy Gray, terrific. Having most of the matches in hi-def is the icing on the cake. Oh, and the tournament has been great, full of exciting matches. Turkey has been in some of the most exciting, having come from behind with late goals three straight times to reach this semi-final match with the Germans.

If there is a problem with the ESPN/ABC coverage, though, it's that the announcers are all here in the USA. None of them traveled to Austria or Switzerland. They sit in a studio and watch the matches on a big TV, and commentate from there. This is fairly common in the soccer world ... the vast majority of matches I watch use this system, which is cost-effective (you don't have to send your announcers all over the globe on a weekly basis). The announcers are used to it, they do a fine job, you might not even notice if you weren't looking for it.

But if there's a Dreaded Technical Glitch, then there is a bigger problem.

Midway through the second half of today's match, something happened in Switzerland ... a lightning bolt, I don't know ... that cut the power to the video feed being sent to all the places telecasting the matches. The screen went blank. At the time, the score was 1-1. When this happens at, say, a Giants baseball game, the announcers keep talking, apologizing for the problem and then calling the game so we can at least hear what is going on.

But Derek Rae and Andy Gray, the ESPN commentators, couldn't do this, because they weren't actually at the match, so they couldn't see anything.

So, for five minutes or so, starting around the 60th minute, we have no idea what is happening. The picture returns, the score is still 1-1, and the world breathes a sigh of relief.

The teams battle for another ten tense minutes, still 1-1. With less than fifteen minutes to go ... the picture disappears again.

A minute or so later, Klose scores a go-ahead goal for Germany, making it 2-1 while we watch the folks in the ESPN studios killing time until the picture comes back. Five more minutes go by, as the studio announcers remind us that the Turks have come from behind so many times in this tournament ... do they have another miracle in them? And if they do, will we see it?

Yes, and no. Amazingly, Turkey scores an equalizer. Now it's 2-2, and we've missed the last two goals.

Finally, the picture returns. And for once, the soccer gods take pity, on television viewers if not fans of the Turkish squad. As the second half ends, Philip Lahm, who has pretty much stunk up the field for 90 minutes, comes forward and slots the ball past the Turkish keeper. Germany 3, Turkey 2.

There are three minutes added. With Turkey, anything is possible. So, of course, we lost the picture one last time.

The valiant Turks couldn't pull it off, and the Germans advance to the finals. In the future, most people will remember only the winner of the tournament, and that's reasonable. But Turkey has been the top story of Euro 2008. Nothing against the Germans, but neutrals feel badly to see Turkey eliminated at last. But then, you aren't really an official member of the international soccer community until you've lost a heartbreaker to the Germans: