Sunday, July 21, 2024

EURO debutants stun Ronaldo’s Portugal


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Gelsenkirchen, June 27: A pre-game chat with Cristiano Ronaldo inspired Khvicha Kvaratskhelia and Georgia to one of the biggest upsets in European Championship history, beating Portugal 2-0 and advancing to the last 16.
Georgia’s No. 7 has admired Ronaldo for years and had spoken before the game of how much he wanted his hero’s shirt. He got it, along with a goal and a slice of soccer history, on a frustrating night for Ronaldo and Portugal.
“Before the match there was a meeting and he wished me success and it was so much for me because I would never imagine that he would come to me and say something to me,” Kvaratskhelia said in translated comments. “I realized that I could do and we could do so many things today because it gave me inspiration.” For Napoli forward Kvaratskhelia, the win even surpasses his club’s historic Italian title last year.“This is the best day in my life because it was more difficult to do it with the Georgian team than with Napoli,” he said.A banner at the Georgian fans’ end of the stadium said “Believe,” and they did.The Georgians needed a win to reach the knockout stage at Euro 2024 and got their opening goal after only 93 seconds. Georges Mikautadze intercepted a poor pass and set up Kvaratskelia to score with a low shot.
António Silva gave away the ball before the first goal and gave away a penalty for the second, tripping Luka Lochoshvili inside the penalty area. Mikautadze hit the spot kick low and past Portugal goalkeeper Diogo Costa in the 57th minute.
Georgia advanced in its debut at a major tournament as one of the best third-place teams. Portugal had already qualified from Group F after winning its first two games.
The Georgians will next face Spain on Sunday in Cologne, while Portugal plays Slovenia on Monday in Frankfurt. Slovenia is another defense-first team and it upset Portugal 2-0 in a March friendly.Ronaldo is still without a goal at Euro 2024. He felt he deserved a penalty in the first half and kicked away a water bottle when he was substituted in the 66th minute.
Ronaldo was given a yellow card for his protests after his penalty appeal was turned down. He wanted the decision after his shirt was pulled in the area by Lochoshvili as a cross came in. No foul was given.
With Portugal already qualified, Ronaldo was one of only three players kept in the lineup from the previous 3-0 win over Turkey, along with Costa and midfielder João Palhinha.Portugal created little in the second half as Georgia’s defense sat deep, but the 2016 champions had chances in added time. Goalkeeper Giorgi Mamardashvili kept Georgia’s two-goal lead intact with saves from Nélson Semedo and Diogo Dalot, while Francisco Conceição narrowly missed the target.
Portugal coach Roberto Martinez criticized “very inconsistent” video reviews but denied his team had underestimated Georgia.
“This was a game where Georgia was playing to be part of history and we didn’t match their intensity,” he said.At the final whistle, Georgia’s players sprinted off the bench to embrace Mamardashvili in a huddle and leapt with joy in front of their raucous fans. (AP)


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