Georgia 2 Portugal 0 – Biggest shock of Euro 2024, Ronaldo's frustration, glorious Kvaratskhelia

In the biggest shock (by world rankings) of Euro 2024 so far, Georgia defeated Portugal 2-0 to secure a place in the knockout stages in what is their major tournament debut.

Georgia, ranked 74, took advantage of Roberto Martinez rotating a Portugal team (6) who had already qualified top of group F, scoring in the second minute through the immensely talented Khvicha Kvaratskhelia before Georges Mikautadze converted a second-half penalty.

Cristiano Ronaldo started the game but his pursuit of becoming the oldest player ever to score at a Euros, he is 39, goes on and he was substituted on 66 minutes with only a booking to show for his efforts.

Portugal will face Slovenia in the round of 16 on Monday evening in Frankfurt and whoever emerges from that tie faces the winner of France v Belgium in the quarter-finals.

Georgia’s stunning victory means they finish third behind Turkey and their reward is a match against Spain on Sunday in Cologne. It will be a difficult prospect coming up against the only team in the competition with a 100 per cent winning record but they will back themselves to cause another upset.

Here our writers analyse the key points from the game.

When did Georgia get good at football?

Georgia reached Euro 2024 – their first ever appearance at a major tournament — after beating Greece in a playoff penalty shootout at the end of March. They had actually finished fourth in their Euro qualifying group, ahead of only Cyprus, but reached the playoffs via the Nations League route topping Group C4.

After their historic qualification for Euro 2024, Georgia manager Willy Sagnol told The Athletic they were going “to play with ambition” and how his players said they “didn’t want to go to Germany for shopping or tourism.”

In their three group matches, they certainly did that, playing with bravery and attacking flair — the opposite of Steve Clarke’s negative approach with Scotland, who tamely limped out the competition.

They played out a thriller against Turkey in their opening match, came close to beating Czech Republic before tonight’s shock victory over Portugal, mixing a dogged determination with quick counters and dashes of flair.

Football is growing in popularity in Georgia, where emphasis is placed on developing and nurturing young talent. They hosted the Under 19s Euros in 2017 and then co-hosted the Under 21 Euros with Romania last year.

As well as Kvaratskhelia, their other standout players so far have been highly rated Valencia goalkeeper Giorgi Mamardashvili — described by Sagnol as one of the best in Europe — and forward Georges Mikautadze, who scored his side’s second from the penalty spot. He was signed by Ajax last summer for £13m and then loaned back to Metz.

Sagnol, who has been Georgia manager for three years, said he was able to draw on his experiences of playing in big tournaments (he won the World Cup with France in 1998) to help his players.

He said: “I usually try to stay calm even when it gets stressful. I think that’s important in Georgia when there are a lot of emotions.”

Tom Burrows

Why was Ronaldo so frustrated?

There must have been times when Cristiano Ronaldo wondered what he was doing out there. Portugal were already through to the knock-out stage, and most of his team-mates were given the night off to recharge their batteries, but there he was, aged 39, getting wound up, picking up a yellow card for dissent and risking a red card when he yelled at the fourth official on his way off the pitch at half-time.

His main grievance stemmed from the referee’s refusal to award Portugal a penalty when his shirt was tugged in the 25th minute. Frustration was understandable, but it consumed him for the rest of the game — right until he was substituted midway through the second half, still without a goal in three appearances at Euro 2024. Twelve shots, no goals.

Leaving the pitch, he shook the hand of Goncalo Ramos, who replaced him, and coach manager Roberto Martinez. But he looked livid. He took his frustration out on a water bottle, kicking it at a plastic crate, before settling down on the bench, his blood boiling.

Oliver Kay

How good is Kvaratskhelia?

At the heart of Georgia’s best play was their talisman and captain, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, who has been linked with PSG and a potential move away from Napoli this summer. 

Georgia manager Willy Sagnol told The Athletic how they shifted Kvaratskhelia to a more central position two years ago to try and get him on the ball as much as possible.

He said: “For me, it was key to have this kind of player in the most important part of the pitch because I don’t have a lot of players like him.”

Georgia’s shock early lead against Portugal came after he was put through on goal by Georges Mikautadz, sprinted clear and flashed a sharp left foot finish across goalkeeper Diogo Costa.

He then had an excellent opportunity to double Georgia’s lead five minutes into the second half but scuffed his shot.

Kvaratskhelia’s tireless running, scampering around with his socks rolled down, and never-say-die attitude helped inspire his side to their greatest ever victory.

Tom Burrows

Is Portugal’s second string as strong as it looks?

Cristiano Ronaldo, Joao Palhinha and Diogo Costa were the only surviving members of Portugal’s 3-0 victory over Turkey to start their final group game against Georgia. Maybe head coach Roberto Martinez was inspired by Luis de la Fuente who changed his entire starting XI for Spain’s 1-0 win against Albania. De la Fuente’s gamble worked but, apart from a couple of individuals, Portugal struggled.

That was obvious in the second minute when 20-year-old centre-back Antonio Silva hesitated on the ball and passed it backwards without looking which directly led to Kvaratskhelia scoring. When Silva conceded a penalty in the second half you could not help but feel he had been unfairly thrown in at the deep end.

Wolverhampton Wanderers fans are used to watching Pedro Neto rampage down the right wing and cut inside onto his left foot for fun but he was used as a left wing-back by Martinez. He still looked effective in flashes but it was a waste of his talents.

Portugal will not be panicking though. They had already qualified as group winners and this was a free hit. Joao Felix endured an underwhelming season with Barcelona but he was a bright spark here. There was one moment just before half-time when Felix and Francisco Conceicao carved through Georgia’s defence with a devilish collection of passes and slick tricks.

Conceicao caused problems throughout with his dribbling and won multiple free-kicks in dangerous positions. This might not have been the perfect outcome for Martinez but he now has a much better understanding of which fringe players can step up and contribute in the latter stages of the tournament. Watching Neto, Felix and Conceicao come off the bench will be a frightening prospect for every team.

Jay Harris

Goalkeeper of the tournament so far?

How about Georgia’s Giorgi Mamardashvili? Going into tonight’s game, he had conceded four goals at Euro 2024, but that was from 20 shots on target. The post-shot expected goals total for those 20 shots was (PSxG) was 7.0. In other words, his shot-stopping could be described as the difference between conceding seven goals and three.

He was excellent once more against Portugal. He wasn’t overworked, but there was a spectacular save from Diogo Dalot early in the second half and, more generally, there was an air of confidence and competence in everything he did — which included scrambling to his left to prevent a Pedro Neto corner from creeping inside the near post in first-half stoppage time.

In another era, an outstanding goalkeeper from a less-fancied nation like Georgia might seem like a classic tournament discovery. But Mamardashvili, 23, has spent the past three seasons at Valencia, having caught their eye while playing in the Europa League for Locomotive Tbilisi. He is widely recognises as one of Europe’s best young goalkeepers, but he has really shone in Germany.

Oliver Kay

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(Photo: Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images)

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