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    Georgia: The dreaming debutants who danced to the round of 16 leaving Portugal speechless!

    On Wednesday night, the Georgia Men’s National Team stepped into the Veltins-Arena in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, with what seemed to be dampened hopes of progressing to the EURO 2024 knockout stage. Portuguese fans joined each other in song, already having secured qualification by winning their previous two group games. An anticipated routine victory for the Portugal Men’s National team took a dramatic twist, in what ended to be an old fashioned ‘smash & grab’ 2-0 win to the Georgians.

    Georgian skipper and Napoli forward, Khvicha Kvaratshkelia, opened the floodgates early in the game. He found himself on the receiving end of a swift counterattack, leaving him with only the keeper to beat. The Jvarosnebi (Crusaders) crowd roared, as their skipper ferociously powered a low driven shot into the back of the net at the 2nd minute mark. This put the underdogs in the driver’s seat, evoking fear in the hearts of the Portuguese.

    But the 2016 EURO champions did not see the need to panic yet, as they still had a star-studded line up, led by their captain and five-time FIFA player of the year, Cristiano Ronaldo. Despite creating a handful of opportunities, the A Seleção forwards failed to impact the game meaningfully. Their lead marksman, Ronaldo, was simply off his mark. He was a shadow of his usual self and did not look like the number 7 that dominated world football for decades.

    Roberto Martinez, head coach of Portugal, made a key change at the opening of the second half.  He substituted in a more offensive midfielder, Ruben Neves, in place of Joao Palhinha, a defensive midfielder. This emphasized his intention to get his team back in the game, unfortunately it was not enough to contain the Georgian army that was firing on all cylinders.

    At the 57th minute mark, Antonio Silva fouled Otar Kiteishvilli in the box. After a video assistant referee (VAR) review, the Swiss referee, Sandro Scharer, confirmed the misfortune of the Portuguese. He pointed to the spot, giving the EURO debutants a chance to pull away with a 2-goal margin. Georges Mikautadze, who is also the current front runner for top goal scorer, stepped up to the task and slotted the spot kick with sheer poise. The previously written off underdogs were rewriting their script, inching closer to their first ever EURO knockout qualification.

    10 minutes later, the Portugal coach decided to rest his superstar, substituting Ronaldo off. Although many felt this decision was made as a safety precaution, it was a turning point in the minds of the Crusader players. The atmosphere had changed, and it became even more clear that they were the better and more efficient outfit on the day. The remainder of the game saw Portugal miss even more chances to claw their way back into the game.

    Mere minutes from the final whistle, the Georgia national team lined up in numbers along the sideline, anxiously waiting to seal their destiny. As the referee concluded the game, the stadium erupted, it was an explosion of joy, disbelief and disappointment from opposing fans. It did not matter to the Jvarosnebi who was in front of them, even one of the greatest players of all time could not subdue them. Giorgi Mamardashvili, goalkeeper of Georgia, had invisible angel wings on his back, as he flew at every opportunity to keep his team from conceding. A true guardian of the goalposts, who guided his nation to history.

    Here’s what users on X had to say about the match…

    @LaLigaExtra posted, “Georgia’s king saves them yet again”

    @The_Forty_Four posted, “In 2013, Ronaldo opened a football academy in Georgia, and one of the children there was Kvaratskhelia.
    Tonight, Kvaratskhelia scored in the first minute vs Portugal…What a story!”

    @ESPNFC posted, “GEORGIA PULL OFF A HISTORIC UPSET VS. PORTUGAL AND HAVE QUALIFIED FOR THE KNOCKOUT STAGE! THE FIRST TIME IN THEIR HISTORY”

    What is a GOAT to a pack of hungry underdogs? Georgia made history on Wednesday night, showing that they are not to be pushed over going forward in this tournament. The knockout stage commences on Saturday, with more mouth-watering action expected to set off in Germany.

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