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Euro 2024: Georgia Reach Knockouts For First Time

Georgia’s Georges Mikautadze celebrates after scoring on a penalty kick Germany, Wednesday, June 26, 2024. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

In arguably the biggest shock of Euro 2024 thus far, Georgia defeated Portugal 2-0 to reach their first ever major tournament knockout stage on Wednesday. 

Going into the match, Portugal had already won the group with two wins in their first two matches against Czech Republic and Turkey. They were clear favourites to get through to the knockouts with a 100% record but a determined Georgian team had other ideas.

Just two minutes into the match, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia fired a low shot past Diogo Costa to open the scoring. The goal seemed almost gifted, as an awful back pass by Antonio Silva turned the ball over straight to Mikautadze, who found Kvaratskhelia inside the box.

Portugal dominated possession for the rest of the first half but couldn’t pierce the Georgian defense, settling for long shots. Goalkeeper Giorgi Mamardashvili was terrific in keeping out the efforts of Ronaldo and Joao Felix who were visibly getting increasingly frustrated.  

Georgia added a second goal after the break when Mamardashvili tipped Diogo Dalot’s long-range strike for a corner. VAR ended up ruling that Otar Kiteishvili had been fouled inside the penalty area which set up a penalty for Mikautadze. He made no mistake, sending the ball into the bottom corner to send the Georgian fans into a frenzy at Arena AufSchalke.

It was Mikautadze’s third goal of the tournament, which makes him the top scorer at Euro 2024 at the moment.

At the end of the match, Portugal had dominated time of possession 73% to 27% and had taken 15 more shots. Georgia may not have had many chances to score but surely took advantage of the few they had to pull off a historic win.

With the victory, Georgia completed the biggest Euros upset in history based on FIFA rankings. They were the number 74 ranked team going into the match, compared to Portugal who were ranked 6th.  

Georgia qualified for the knockouts as one of the top four third-placed teams in the groups. They will now play Spain in the last 16, which will almost surely be their toughest test yet.

Portugal will take on Slovenia in the next round, who finished third in Group C with three draws. 

Turkey Beat Czech Republic 2-1

Also in Group F action, Turkey defeated Czech Republic 2-1 on Wednesday to finish in second place and qualify behind Portugal to progress to the knockouts. It was the first time in 16 years that Turkey had been able to make it through the group phase of the competition. 

Turkey will now go on to face Austria in the round of 16 in Leipzig on Tuesday. The last time they played a major tournament knockout match was the Euro 2008 semi-finals, where they were beaten by Germany.

The Czechs were eliminated from the tournament despite putting up a courageous performance, battling down a man in Hamburg. Antonin Barack was given one of the earliest red cards in Euro Cup history, being sent off the pitch in the 20th minute. His exit was a result of  a pair of yellow card bookings, of which the Czechs had 18 by the end of the match.

Turkey scored first to break the deadlock in the 51st minute via Hakan Calhanoglu. He scored using a low shot across goalkeeper Jindrich Stanek who appeared to have injured his shoulder just before with a diving save. He was immediately replaced by back-up Matej Kovar after the goal.

The lead didn’t last very long for Turkey, as Tomas Soucek rocketed home a ball which followed Coufal hurling into the box. The goal survived a VAR review for a possible foul on the keeper and a handball to set up a thrilling finish.

The Czech Republic pushed hard for a winner even though they had only 10 men on the field but Cenk Tosun ended their hopes with a counter-attack in added time. 

In a bit of post-match drama, fans ran onto the pitch and Czech forward Tomas Chory was given a red card in the aftermath.