Euro 2024: How Georgia defied odds to stun Portugal

Khvicha Kvaratskhelia scored past Portugal, 1 minute, 35 seconds after kick-off to give Georgia the lead and eventually beat the heavyweight 2-0 and confirm its spot in the Euro 2024 round of 16.

In 2015, Georgia was ranked 154th in world FIFA ranking. Cut to nine years later and it has become one of the sixteen best teams in the European Championship. 

The tiny country of a 69,700 km² area and with a population of just 3.7 million entered as the biggest underdog since this is its first major international tournament. However, it caused the biggest upset so far by beating the one-time champion led by none other than Cristiano Ronaldo.

Although Georgia lost its opening game against Turkey and drew the following match against Czechia, a dominant win over the Portuguese side is a statement that no team can take the debutant lightly heading into the knockout stages.


Georgia plays a straightforward style of football but its beauty lies in the ordinary and direct approach taken by its head coach Willy Sagnol.

Like most teams in this edition, Georgia plays with three centre-backs in a 3-5-2 formation and two wing-backs, who mostly operate as the full-backs making it a five-at-the-back defensive setup.

READ | Euro 2024: Complete points table after group stage; Georgia confirms spot in knockouts after beating Portugal

Georgia may lack the individual quality in players to hold the ball and control the tempo of the game, which is why it doesn’t even try to do so.

It had a possession of just 27% in its match against Portugal and 38% against Czechia.

Portugal had 22 shots in the game and dictated the play but only five of them were on goal. This is essentially because Georgia crowded its own box and kept clearing and blocking any Portugal attack. Similarly, Turkey had 22 shots and Czechia had 27 but Georgia’s backline handled the pressure well and wasn’t prone to making mistakes or conceding space to attack.

Although this makes its side look negative, it perfectly fits its playing style. Rather than building from the back, Georgia relies on long balls and hence played solely on counter-attacks but with its own twist to it.

Long balls from behind are usually targeted at its front two players Kvaratskhelia and the tournament’s leading goal scorer (3) Georges Mikautadze. Although the passes aren’t pinpoint, it is enough for Georgia to catch the opposing defense off-guard because of their high pace in transition.

Since Georgia sits deep in its own box, it invites the opposing side to play a high line, giving Georgia’s attackers plenty of space to attack and dribble into in the attacking half.

Another peculiar trait of its counter-attacking is the switching of flanks. While most teams playing on the counter always look to push on the same wing in which they win the ball, Georgia switches it early to the other wing, where it has either Kvaratskhelia or Mikautadze waiting to dribble into the final third.

There have also been instances where it has switched it back to the other wing deep in the final third for the overlapping winger to shoot from the far post. For example, before Georgia won the penalty which led to its second goal against Portugal, the pass came from the right wing before Luka Lochoshvili was brought down inside the box.

READ | Euro 2024: Newcomer Georgia shocks Portugal 2-0 to get round of 16 spot

Although this is Georgia’s main setup it switches things when it falls behind in a match. During the opening fixture against Turkey, Georgia conceded early in the game which forced it to turn more aggressive with its attacks by crowding the midfield. This saw it dominate the ball a little more with 44 per cent possession

Georgia switched to a 3-6-1 formation with its full-backs and midfielders playing high up the pitch and star man Kvaratskhelia moving further up to give him the freedom to roam around in the final third. That is how it scored its solitary goal against Turkey when a cut-back into the box from the right wing found Mikautadze in space who then scored the equaliser.


Unfortunately for the underdog side, it faces Spain in the round-of-16, the only team that has won all of its matches so far.

Even if Georgia manages to beat the odds and get past Spain in the round of 16, it is likely to face Germany, France or Portugal again in the knockouts.

Even if Georgia manages to beat the odds and get past Spain in the round of 16, it is likely to face Germany, France or Portugal again in the knockouts.
| Photo Credit:


Even if Georgia manages to beat the odds and get past Spain in the round of 16, it is likely to face Germany, France or Portugal again in the knockouts.
| Photo Credit:

Spain had brushed past Georgia 7-1 in the qualifying stage in 2023, however, the team has gone through some revolutionary changes in its overall game since then. It has changed from a 4-4-2 formation to this new-found counter-attacking trick up its sleeve.

On paper, dominant Spain’s fine firing form makes it the clear favourite to go through.

However, Spain hasn’t faced an aggressive counter-attacking side and its backline might be a bit too slow for Georgia’s pace. And when it comes to Spain’s attack, despite ticking all the right boxes it hasn’t been the most prolific in front of goal. Spain has made 48 attempts out of which only 16 were on target. 

The shooting is a concern because Georgia’s keeper Giorgi Mamardashvili is having a terrific campaign. With 20 saves in three matches, he is leading the charts compared to every other keeper in the competition. Georgia has only conceded four goals and majority of the credit goes to Mamardashvili and his saves.

Even if Georgia manages to beat the odds and get past Spain, it is likely to face Germany, France or Portugal again in the knockouts.

With a set of challenging opponents ahead, Georgia has the odds heavily stacked against it. Reaching the last-16 in its maiden attempt is a massive achievement for the nation which is why Georgia will be playing like there is nothing to lose. It will once again pack the punch to stir up trouble for the heavyweights in this edition.

The Euro 2024 round of 16 starts on June 29 when Switzerland faces Italy while Georgia will clash against Spain on the following day at 12:30 AM IST.

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