• Friday, July 19, 2024

FOOTBALL

Georgia upset Portugal to reach Euro last 16, Belgium to face France

Georges Mikautadze extended their lead to 2-0 from the penalty spot early in the second half, becoming the tournament’s top scorer with three goals. (Photo: Getty Images)

By: Vivek Mishra

Georgia caused a major upset by defeating Portugal 2-0 to secure a historic place in the Euro 2024 knockout stages on Wednesday. Alongside Georgia, Turkey, Belgium, Romania, and Slovakia also advanced to the last 16 as the group stage concluded.

In their debut European Championship appearance, Georgia needed a victory against Portugal in Gelsenkirchen to progress to the last 16. They took the lead within the first two minutes through a goal from Napoli winger Khvicha Kvaratskhelia.

Georges Mikautadze extended their lead to 2-0 from the penalty spot early in the second half, becoming the tournament’s top scorer with three goals.

Despite several attempts, Portugal had a frustrating night, with Georgia’s goalkeeper Giorgi Mamardashvili making crucial saves.

Cristiano Ronaldo, who holds the record for the most goals in Euros history with 14, remains goalless in this tournament.

Ranked 74th globally, Georgia will face Spain in the next round on Sunday in Cologne, advancing as one of the top four third-placed teams.

“I’m still finding it difficult to comprehend what we’ve achieved,” said Georgia coach Willy Sagnol. “I’m immensely proud of the players for the image they’ve portrayed of Georgia today. It’s a great honour for me to manage them.”

In the same group, Turkey secured second place with a 2-1 victory over the Czech Republic in Hamburg, knocking out the Czechs. Cenk Tosun’s stoppage-time goal sealed Turkey’s win, with Hakan Calhanoglu also scoring in the second half.

Tomas Soucek equalised for the Czechs, who played most of the match with ten men after Antonin Barak’s 20th-minute sending-off. Tomas Chory received a red card after the final whistle.

Turkey will meet Austria in Leipzig next Tuesday, while Portugal will face Slovenia in Frankfurt on Monday.

In Group E, despite earning four points, Ukraine was eliminated. Romania’s 1-1 draw with Slovakia ensured both teams progressed.

Ukraine’s goalless draw with Belgium wasn’t sufficient due to goal difference.

Belgium, anticipated to dominate their group, finished second and will now face France in the last 16.

Meanwhile, Slovakia, advancing as one of the best third-placed teams, will play England next in Gelsenkirchen.

Ukraine’s failure to progress with four points marks the first instance in the expanded Euro format involving 24 teams.

“A strong nation is one that stays united and supports each other at all times, whether in defeat or victory,” wrote Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Telegram.

In Frankfurt, Romania advanced to the Euros knockout stages for the first time in 24 years, securing a draw to progress.

Slovakia took the lead through Ondrej Duda’s header, with Razvan Marin converting a penalty later in the first half for Romania.

Romania’s next challenge is against the Netherlands in the last 16.

(With AFP inputs)

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