Wednesday, July 24, 2024

The Numbers Game: Georgia looking to cause an upset on Ronaldo´s big day

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 24 Jun 2024

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Georgia know that knockout football is still within their reach as they prepare for their toughest test so far at Euro 2024 against Portugal.

Roberto Martinez’s side secured top spot in Group F with a game to spare after following up a 2-1 win against Czechia with a commanding 3-0 victory over Turkiye.

Meanwhile, Georgia missed the chance to claim a maiden victory at a major tournament as they drew 1-1 with Czechia, but they did set themselves up with a chance of getting out of the group.

Here, we use Opta data to preview Wednesday’s clash.

What’s expected?

After their strong start to Euro 2024, Portugal are the favourites to make it three wins from three games, with the Opta supercomputer giving them a 75.8% chance of getting the job done.

While Georgia’s spirited performances have earned them the plaudits, they are predicted just a 10.4% likelihood of an upset, and a 13.9% chance of taking a point.

This will be just the second-ever meeting between the nations, with Portugal coming out on top with a 2-0 friendly win in May 2008.

The Selecao look set to repeat that result, after putting a recent European Championships hoodoo behind them. Having won both of their group-stage games so far, Portugal have now won more than they had across the 2016 and 2020 editions combined (W1 D4 L1).

However, only once before have Portugal won all three of their group games in the competition (2000).

As for Georgia, they are chasing what would be a historic first major tournament win, having drawn and lost their opening two matches. Only Greece have got their first such victory against Portugal, beating them en route to lifting the trophy at Euro 2004.

Georgia have proven tough to beat in the last year – since losing three in a row between June and September 2023, they have only lost two of their last nine games (W4 D3).

Georgia aiming for a big finish

Making their major tournament bow at Euro 2024, Georgia have caught the eye with their high-intensity approach to games, pushing both Turkiye and Czechia all the way in their first two fixtures.

Georges Mikautadze etched his name into Georgia’s history books after scoring their first goal at the Euros, before becoming the sixth player to net both of his nation’s first two goals at the tournament, and the first since Andriy Shevchenko in 2012 for Ukraine.

After a free-flowing attacking performance in their 3-1 defeat to Turkiye, which saw Georgia have 14 shots and hit the woodwork twice, they failed to recapture that same spark against Czechia.

They did earn their first point, though, agonisingly missing out on that first victory as Saba Lobjanidze squandered a golden chance with the last kick of the game.

Across the first two matchdays of Euro 2024, Georgia faced more shots (49), more shots on target (20) and had a higher expected goals against (xGA) figure (6.1) than any other side.

Then again, Giorgi Mamardashvili made more saves (16) – 11 of which came against Czechia – and had a higher expected goals on target (xGoT) prevented figure (+3.05) than any other goalkeeper in the first two matchdays, conceding just four goals (excluding own goals) despite facing an xGoT of 7.05.

It will be a much sterner test for the Valencia goalkeeper against the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes and Bernardo Silva, but if he can maintain that level, he will give Georgia a chance.

Ronaldo set to make more Euros history

Playing at a record sixth Euros at 39 years old, Ronaldo had seen his place in the squad debated in the build-up to the tournament.

He has started both matches in the competition so far though, and should he retain his place against Georgia, he will become the first European player in history to make 50 major tournament appearances (28 of those will have come at the Euros, while he has played 22 times at the World Cup).

Questions continued to circulate after a frustrating outing for Ronaldo in their 2-1 victory against Czechia on MD1, as he failed to score from five shots worth 0.73 xG, including missing one big chance, as defined by Opta.

However, he silenced some of those with another slice of history in their dominant win over Turkiye on Saturday, teeing up Fernandes to get his seventh assist at the European Championships – the most on record of any player in the competition’s history.

Despite being the tournament’s all-time top scorer, Ronaldo is yet to hit the net so far, though the Selecao are the second-highest scorers at Euro 2024 with five goals.

Portugal have benefitted from an own goal in both of their games – only Spain in the 2020 edition have benefitted more at a single Euros (three), while no team has ever done so in three consecutive games at the finals before.

Martinez will not be too worried about that though, after two commanding performances, as they look to stay perfect heading into the last 16.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Georgia – Georges Mikautadze

Mikautadze, as things stand, is the joint-top scorer at Euro 2024, with two goals.

With the chance to continue their run into the last 16, another goal from him could be the key to setting Georgia on their way.

If he does score on Wednesday, he would be just the third player in history to net each of his side’s first three goals in the competition, after Gerd Muller (Germany) and Hristo Stoichkov (Bulgaria). Not bad company to be keeping.

Portugal – Bruno Fernandes

The pre-match headlines are likely to be firmly focused on Ronaldo.

But on the pitch, it could be Fernandes who sets the tone for Portugal, having been directly involved in 28 goals in his last 23 appearances for the national side in all competitions, scoring 15 and assisting 13.

His strike against Turkiye was his first goal at the European Championships (in his sixth appearance), the second major tournament match he has scored in for Portugal, after his brace against Uruguay at the 2022 World Cup.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

SoccerNews

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