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Euro 2024: Georgia shock Portugal with historic 2-0 win, move into last 16

Georgia’s forward #07 Khvicha Kvaratskhelia celebrates his team’s second goal during the UEFA Euro 2024 Group F football match between Georgia and Portugal at the Arena AufSchalke in Gelsenkirchen on June 26, 2024. — AFP  

GELSENKIRCHEN: Georgia pulled off a historic upset at the Euro 2024 by defeating Portugal 2-0 on Wednesday, securing their place in the knockout phase of their first major tournament. Khvicha Kvaratskhelia’s early strike and a Georges Mikautadze penalty sealed the win.

At 74th in the world rankings, Georgia faced off against Portugal, ranked sixth and Euro champions in 2016. Despite Portugal fielding a largely second-string team, the victory is Georgia’s most significant since gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

The match, held in front of thousands of passionate Georgian fans, began with an explosive start. Kvaratskhelia capitalised on a loose pass from Antonio Silva, racing away to score just 93 seconds into the game. “This is the best day of my life,” Kvaratskhelia, the Napoli winger, declared. “We have made history and no one believed that we would beat Portugal.”

Georgia’s journey to Euro 2024 was anything but straightforward. After finishing fourth in their qualifiers, they won their group in the Euro Nations tournament and defeated Greece in a playoff. Under the guidance of coach Willy Sagnol, Georgia managed to secure third place in Group F, setting up a last-16 clash with Spain.

Reflecting on the challenge ahead, Sagnol stated, “When you are the small team of the competition… you know you have nothing to lose… You have no weight on your shoulders.”

Portugal’s star, Cristiano Ronaldo, was one of only three starters from their previous win against Turkey. At 39, he was keen to become the oldest goal scorer at a Euro tournament. However, Georgia’s defence held firm, and Ronaldo’s frustration showed when he was booked for arguing and later kicked a water bottle after being substituted.

Portugal coach Roberto Martinez acknowledged the intensity of their opponents. “We didn’t underestimate Georgia, but Georgia were playing the game of their history,” he said.

Georgia’s goalkeeper, Giorgi Mamardashvili, made crucial saves to maintain the lead. At full time, the Georgian squad celebrated exuberantly on the field, marking a momentous occasion in their football history.

Elsewhere in Group F, Turkey secured their place in the last 16 with a 2-1 win over the Czech Republic. Georgia’s win reshaped the knockout fixtures, with England facing Slovakia, Romania taking on the Netherlands, and Portugal meeting Slovenia.

For Georgia, the road to this triumph was arduous, but their persistence paid off in a night to remember in Gelsenkirchen.

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