Georgia stun Portugal to reach Euro 2024 last 16, Belgium to face France

Georgia secured a historic place in the knockout stages of Euro 2024 after a stunning 2-0 win over Portugal on Wednesday, while Turkey, Belgium, Romania and Slovakia all advanced to the last 16 as the group stage came to an end. BSS

Appearing at their first European Championship, Georgia had to record their first ever victory at the tournament to reach the last 16 when they played Portugal in Gelsenkirchen.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal had already qualified for the last 16 as Group F winners, and their coach Roberto Martinez made eight changes to his team.

Georgia went ahead inside the opening two minutes thanks to a fine finish from their star player, Napoli winger Khvicha Kvaratskhelia.

Georges Mikautadze, who set up that goal, made it 2-0 from the penalty spot early in the second half to become the competition’s top scorer on three.

It was a frustrating night for Portugal, who were denied on several occasions by Georgia’s impressive goalkeeper Giorgi Mamardashvili.

The 39-year-old Ronaldo, who has a Euros record tally of 14 goals, was left still waiting for his first at this year’s competition.

Georgia, ranked 74th in the world, will now play much-fancied Spain in the next round on Sunday in Cologne, having progressed as one of the four best third-placed sides.

– Sagnol ‘so proud’ –

“It’s still difficult to realise what we have done,” said Georgia coach Willy Sagnol.

“I’m so proud of the players because what an image they have shown of Georgia today. I feel very proud to be their manager.”

It is a remarkable achievement for Georgia, the former Soviet Republic which is a candidate for European Union membership but is currently immersed in political turmoil over controversial “foreign influence” legislation.

Turkey finished second in the same group after a 2-1 win over the Czech Republic in Hamburg, as their opponents were eliminated.

Cenk Tosun’s goal in stoppage time sealed the victory for Turkey, who had been playing with an extra man since the 20th-minute sending-off of Antonin Barak.

Hakan Calhanoglu’s superb strike put Turkey ahead early in the second half, before Tomas Soucek levelled for the Czechs, for whom Tomas Chory was also shown red after the final whistle.

Turkey will play Austria in the last 16 in Leipzig next Tuesday, while 2016 champions Portugal go to Frankfurt for a game on Monday against Slovenia.

– Heartbreak for Ukraine –

Earlier, in a dramatic finish to Group E, war-torn Ukraine were left heartbroken as they went out despite picking up four points.

Romania’s 1-1 draw with Slovakia secured the point they both needed to progress, while Ukraine’s brave effort in a 0-0 draw with Belgium was not enough.

All four sides ended the section on four points, but Ukraine paid for their 3-0 defeat to Romania in their opening game as they finished bottom on goal difference.

Belgium could be made to pay for making a meal of a group they were expected to cruise as Domenico Tedesco’s men will face France in the last 16 after finishing second.

Their support reacted furiously at the final whistle in Stuttgart, with captain Kevin De Bruyne appearing to tell his team-mates not to go over to acknowledge them as the whistles and jeers grew louder.

“We need these fans, we need them against France,” said De Bruyne.

“We gave it our all during the three matches, everybody wanted to win the matches. We tried to do this but we didn’t manage to do so,” he added.

Slovakia advance as one of the best third-placed sides and will meet England next in Gelsenkirchen.

Ukraine became the first side since the expansion of the Euros to 24 teams to fail to get out of the group stage with four points.

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

In Frankfurt, Romania ensured progress to the knockout stages of a Euros for the first time in 24 years after coming from behind to take a point.

Slovakia went in front on 24 minutes when Ondrej Duda powered home a header.

The lead only lasted 13 minutes as Ianis Hagi, son of former Barcelona and Real Madrid star Gheorghe Hagi, won a penalty that was emphatically converted by Razvan Marin.

Romania will take on the Netherlands in the last 16.

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