Teamwork makes the dream work

Euro 2024: Ronaldo speak impressed Georgia star earlier than historic upset

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GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany — Georgia hero Khvicha Kvaratskhelia says a pre-match assembly with Cristiano Ronaldo helped encourage perception that his workforce may trigger a historic upset in opposition to Portugal and qualify for the spherical of 16 of Euro 2024 on Wednesday.

Georgia went on to win 2-0 in opposition to Euro 2016 winners Portugal on the Enviornment AufSchalke, with Kvaratskhelia opening the scoring after simply 92 seconds and Georges Mikautadze, the event’s high scorer with three, including the second by way of a penalty.

The victory arrange a gathering with Spain as Georgia reached the knockout phases of their debut look in a significant event, whereas Kvaratskhelia left with Ronaldo’s shirt.

“I obtained Ronaldo’s jersey and we have made it via to the following spherical,” mentioned Kvaratskhelia, who labelled the Portugal No.7 his boyhood idol earlier than the sport, in a information convention by way of a translator.

“That is the very best day within the lives of Georgian soccer followers. We have made historical past, nobody would consider we would make it occur.

“Nobody would consider we may beat Portugal however that is why we’re a powerful workforce; if there’s even a 1% probability, we have proven we are able to make it occur.

“Earlier than the match there was a gathering [with Ronaldo] and he wished me success; I would by no means think about he would come and speak to me.

“He is an incredible participant and an incredible particular person. That is why he is an incredible character out and in of soccer; I’ve a lot respect for him, he is among the best gamers on the earth.

“When he comes to speak to you earlier than the match, that is wonderful; that helped us consider we may do one thing immediately.”

Kvaratskhelia, 23, has tasted success in membership soccer, profitable Italy’s Serie A with Napoli in 2023, however says writing historical past together with his nation was the very best day of his life.

“The Scudetto was a memorable second for me however I am happier immediately as a result of while you’re enjoying to your nation, it makes you so proud, although I used to be so proud of each,” he added.

“That is the happiest day of my life; profitable the title was my dream and this was my dream as nicely. It is tough to place my feelings into phrases, I am simply so glad.”

Georgia coach Willy Sagnol mentioned he didn’t consider that they had certified till the ultimate whistle blew, revealing Manchester United’s 1999 Champions League ultimate comeback in opposition to Bayern Munich, a 12 months earlier than he joined the German facet, was on his thoughts within the dying phases.

“If you need me to be sincere, it is solely when the referee blew the whistle on the finish [that I believed],” the Frenchman mentioned in a information convention.

“Soccer has made a number of tales like that, while you assume you might be profitable and lose within the final minute — Bayern in opposition to United involves thoughts. I used to be watching the time, each 10 seconds, and ultimately simply felt very empty.

“We have been dreaming of qualifying however didn’t assume it was doable. I believed we reached our most by qualifying in March, however soccer is rarely written beforehand.”

Portugal had already booked their place within the subsequent spherical as group winners, permitting coach Roberto Martínez to make eight modifications to his facet.

Nevertheless, he insisted that they had handled Georgia with respect.

“We did not underestimate Georgia,” he mentioned in a information convention. “They have been enjoying the sport of their historical past, with the prospect to qualify for the primary time on the Euros [for the last 16].

“We have been enjoying our final recreation, already high of group. It was tough to match the depth, however that is not underestimating Georgia. They’re gamers of the very best degree and it isn’t that we underestimated [them].

“We did not play with sufficient depth from the beginning and we conceded early, which is what Georgia wanted. Afterward, we weren’t clear headed sufficient in regards to the final go and in entrance of objective.

“I believe their goalkeeper [Giorgi] Mamardashvili had a tremendous efficiency. We tried to attain, we could not, and that allowed them to consider much more and it was a deserved victory for them.”

Portugal will meet Slovenia within the subsequent spherical, with Martínez pledging to convey again Rúben Dias, Bernardo Silva and Bruno Fernandes, who have been all rested on Wednesday.

Ronaldo did play, lasting 65 minutes earlier than being substituted, however he couldn’t discover the online as his exceptional run of scoring within the group part of each main event since his first look at Euro 2004 got here to an finish.

The win took Georgia via as one of many 4 best-ranked third positioned groups on the event, whereas Turkey, who beat Czechia on Wednesday, went via as runners up behind Portugal.

Turkey will meet Austria within the final 16.