Thursday, July 25, 2024

Kvaratskhelia inspired by Ronaldo as Georgia record famous Portugal win

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 27 Jun 2024

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Khvicha Kvaratskhelia revealed he had been inspired by a pre-match chat with Cristiano Ronaldo after scoring in Georgia’s historic Euro 2024 victory over Portugal on Wednesday.

Major tournament debutants Georgia reached the last 16 as one of the best third-place finishers as Kvaratskhelia’s second-minute strike and a Georges Mikautadze penalty handed them the biggest result in their history.

They will face Spain in the next round after becoming the first European nation to progress from the group stage at their maiden tournament since Iceland reached the quarter-finals of Euro 2016.

Speaking after the game, Napoli winger Kvaratskhelia said overcoming his childhood idol made Wednesday’s victory even more special.

“I got Ronaldo’s jersey and we’ve made it through to the next round,” Kvaratskhelia told reporters.

“This is the best day in the lives of Georgian football fans. We’ve made history, no one would believe we’d make it happen.

“No one would believe we could beat Portugal but that’s why we’re a strong team; if there’s even a one per cent chance, we’ve shown we can make it happen.

“Before the match there was a meeting [with Ronaldo] and he wished me success; I’d never imagined he would come and talk to me.

“He’s a great player and a great person. That’s why he’s a great personality in and out of football; I have so much respect for him, he’s one of the best players in the world.

“When he comes to talk to you before the match, that’s amazing; that helped us believe we could do something today.”

Timed at one minute and 32 seconds, Kvaratskhelia’s goal was both Georgia’s fastest in a tournament match and the earliest Portugal have ever conceded at the Euros.

While the in-demand 23-year-old was exceptional in Gelsenkirchen, Ronaldo struggled as he failed to score from three shots worth 0.21 expected goals (xG).

He has failed to score during the group stage of a major tournament for the first time in his career, with this his 11th such campaign.

He scored in group-stage matches at the 2006, 2010, 2014, 2018 and 2022 World Cups and the 2004, 2008, 2012, 2016 and 2020 editions of the Euros.

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