Georgia stuns Portugal to reach Euro 2024 knockout stages in first major international tournament

Damond Isiaka
5 Min Read


CNN
 — 

Georgia caused the biggest upset of Euro 2024 so far with a sensational 2-0 win over Portugal to book its place in the round of 16.

Khvicha Kvaratskhelia gave Georgia the lead inside two minutes after an awful error in the Portuguese defense, before Georges Mikautadze scored the second from the penalty spot in the second half.

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Competing at the first major tournament in the nation’s history, Georgia has captured the hearts of fans at Euro 2024 for its fearlessness and high-intensity football.

Both were on display again in Wednesday’s deserved victory as Georgia eventually saw out the win with relative ease, qualifying for the knockout stages as one of the tournament’s four best third-place teams.

Elsewhere, Turkey’s 2-1 win against Czech Republic means the team finishes second in Group F behind Portugal.

Portugal had already qualified for the knockout stages with wins over Czech Republic and Turkey and was looking to become just the second team after Spain to win all three group games at Euro 2024.

Georgia, meanwhile, knew only a win would be enough to reach the round of 16.

The lowest-ranked team at Euro 2024, Georgia had proven to be no pushover in its games so far during the tournament, losing narrowly against Turkey and drawing with Czech Republic.

GELSENKIRCHEN, GERMANY - JUNE 26: Francisco Conceicao of Portugal heads the ball during the Group F - UEFA EURO 2024 match between Georgia and Portugal at Arena AufSchalke on June 26, 2024 in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. (Photo by Pablo Morano/BSR Agency/Getty Images)

Given the team had already qualified, perhaps a lack of focus and intensity led to Portugal gifting Georgia the opening goal less than two minutes into the game.

An awful back pass by Antonio Silva gave the ball straight to Mikautadze, whose through ball found Kvaratskhelia inside the box and the Napoli forward finished brilliantly across Diogo Costa.

So loud was the roar that went up inside the Arena AufSchalke in Gelsenkirchen that it might have been heard back in Tbilisi.

Portugal dominated possession for the rest of first half but was limited to long shots by a diligent Georgia defense.

Goalkeeper Giorgi Mamardashvili was equal to them all, keeping out efforts from an increasingly frustrated Ronaldo and João Félix.

Ronaldo let his annoyance get the better of him after claiming he should have been awarded a penalty for having his shirt pulled, resulting in yellow card for dissent.

For all of Portugal’s dominance, Georgia should have doubled its lead after 35 minutes but Giorgi Gvelesiani couldn’t make contact with his header after rising highest to try and get on the end of Kvaratskhelia’s free kick.

Kvaratskhelia then had a glorious opportunity to get Georgia’s second just minutes into the second half after more poor defending from Portugal, but scuffed his shot from just 10 yards out.

Georgia, however, was not to be denied its second goal. After a long wait for a break in play – that only came when Mamardashvili sensationally tipped Diogo Dalot’s long-range strike behind for a corner – VAR ruled that Otar Kiteishvili had been fouled inside the penalty area in an earlier passage of play.

Mikautadze stepped up and calmly side-footed the ball into the bottom corner to send thousands of Georgia fans inside the Arena AufSchalke wild for a second time this evening.

That was Mikautadze’s third goal of the tournament, making him the top scorer at Euro 2024.

Georgia was far from just hanging on to its lead in the second half and was good value for its two-goal advantage, comfortably holding Portugal at arm’s length.

Of the two teams, Georgia looked the most likely to get the next goal and was a constant threat on the counterattack.

Nelson Semedo had the best chance of the half for Portugal, but the indomitable Mamardashvili got down sharply again to preserve the clean sheet.

When the referee blew for full time, the Georgian bench emptied onto the pitch and the players celebrated in front of their fans as though they had won the entire tournament.

Ranked 74th in the world and a nation of less than four million people, this was the greatest night of football in the country’s history.

This story has been updated with additional reporting.

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