• Tuesday, July 23, 2024
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Euro 2024: Georgia stun Portugal to reach first knockouts

Georgia-khvicha-kvaratskhelia

Georgia made history by reaching their first major tournament knockout stage with a 2-0 victory over Portugal at Euro 2024 on Wednesday night.

Despite Portugal having already secured the top spot in the group, they were stunned early in their final group stage game when Khvicha Kvaratskhelia drilled a low shot past Diogo Costa within two minutes.

This goal came as Georgia hit Portugal on the break after regaining possession, setting the tone for the rest of the match. The underdogs capitalized on their chances, with Georges Mikautadze extending Georgia’s lead with a second-half penalty, sealing their surprising success.

Georgia allowed Portugal to control possession, focusing on a strong defensive strategy that limited Portugal’s chances. Despite having fewer opportunities, Georgia’s disciplined defence frustrated the Group F winners.

Cristiano Ronaldo struggled to make an impact due to limited service in the final third. Portugal’s midfielders could not create meaningful chances, merely boosting possession statistics. Georgia’s effective game plan ensured their memorable finish to the group stage.

By defeating Portugal, Georgia pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Euros history, based on FIFA rankings. They face Spain in the last 16, while Portugal will take on Slovenia.

Despite averaging the lowest possession in Euro qualifying, Georgia executed their strategy effectively. Kvaratskhelia, who had a standout season with Napoli in 2022/23, stepped up on Wednesday after a subdued start to the tournament.

Georgia’s manager, Willy Sagnol, instructed Kvaratskhelia and Mikautadze to stay high up the pitch, ready to exploit Portugal’s mistakes. The strategy paid off early, with Mikautadze intercepting a misplaced pass from Antonio Silva to set up the opening goal.

Goalkeeper Giorgi Mamardashvili, instrumental in their 1-1 draw with the Czech Republic, had a relatively quiet night as Portugal struggled to create clear chances. Ronaldo’s efforts, including a long-range free-kick and a deflected shot, were well-handled by Mamardashvili.

At 39, Ronaldo aimed to become the oldest player to score at the Euros but left the field in frustration after a muted performance.

Georgia now looks to continue their remarkable journey with a challenging match against Spain, aiming to create more history.