Sunday, July 21, 2024

Euro 2024: By Georgia, they’ve done it!

Morning all.

So we now know the fixtures for the knock-out rounds of Euro 2024 after the final group games took place yesterday. First up, Georgia beating Portugal 2-0 to go through is a fantastic achievement for them, but they’ve been something of a breath of fresh air throughout the tournament so it’s great to see that rewarded. Georges Mikautadze is the tournament’s top scorer now after his nerveless penalty, and Giorgi Marmardashvili might give Donnarumma a run for best keeper after some excellent saves.

The other goalscorer, the live-wire Kvhicha Kvaratskhelia said afterwards:

This is the best day in the lives of Georgians. We just made history. Nobody would believe what has happened, that we would defeat Portugal but this is why we’re a strong team. We just encourage each other and told each other that we could do that. It is the best day of my life.

I also enjoyed the RTE commentator Adrian Eames who, at the final whistle, understood what his audience wanted to hear, saying:

What a night for everyone from Georgia! But disappointment for Ronaldo …

Haha!

I was mostly watching the other game between Turkey and the Czech Republic which was notable for how many yellow cards there were. The ref went trigger happy too early, and I think the 19th minute sending off of Antonin Barak played a big part in that. The Fiorentina man can have no complaints about his first yellow, but the second seemed really harsh – he connected with the ball and his studs came down on top of the foot of the opposition player who didn’t get the ball. Where was his foot supposed to go?

Turkey’s goal from Hakan Calhanoglu was genuinely brilliant, a superb finish after twice they had been denied in quick succession thanks to last-ditch defending and a great save from Jindrich Stanek who injured himself in the process. The technique with the outside of the foot from the Inter Milan midfielder was as good as it gets, adding to Turkey’s collection of bangers at Euro 2024. Tomas Soucek equalised for the 10 men, and while the game itself didn’t feel particularly nasty or fractious, the ref was keen to swan around showing yellows to whoever he could – it didn’t matter if they were on the pitch or on the bench. I was waiting for him to book a fan for being overly-supportive.

So, when the game reached the 2-1 conclusion after a late goal from that lad who never scored for Everton, and the Czechs went out, it was little surprise to see things kick off at the final whistle. More flashes of yellow, and of red. In total 20 yellows and 2 reds were issued, and I’d be a bit surprised if this ref – Romanian Istvan Kovacs – gets another game on the back of that display. I think we all understand the need for discipline, but when you lose the run of yourself the way he did, it’s not a good look – albeit quite entertaining as it’s happening.

Earlier, I was really disappointed at how poor Belgium were. Leandro Trossard came off midway through the second half, Oleksandr Zinchenko was off the bench for Ukraine at that point, but this was a low quality game in general. That said, in the final stages, Ukraine were the team that really went for it, they had to because of the standings in the group, and they had chances to score but couldn’t find the finish.

The Belgian side felt almost paralysed by fear, afraid to go for a goal because they were too concerned about conceding one, and when you consider they now have France in the Round of 16, it was too conservative for my liking. Some might say sensible – why risk losing it?! – but topping the group would have seen them face the Netherlands, a side I think they’re more capable of beating based on what we’ve seen from them so far. France are clear favourites there, but I guess in knock-out football you just never know.

At the same time, Romania and Slovakia played out a 1-1 draw which saw both go through. The former will play the Netherlands, while Slovakia will be up against England, and unless there’s an improvement from Gareth Southgate’s side, the Slovakians will fancy their chances of causing an upset. All they need to do is man-mark England’s deep-lying midfielder, Harry Kane, and they could find some joy.

So, with a couple of days off now, the full fixtures are as follows.

Saturday June 29th

17.00 : Switzerland v Italy
20.00 : Germany v Denmark

Sunday June 30th

17.00 : England v Slovakia
20.00 : Spain v Georgia

Monday July 1st

17.00 : France v Belgium
20.00 : Portugal v Slovenia

Tuesday July 2nd

17.00 : Romania v Netherlands
20.00 : Austria v Turkey

All in all, it’s been a very entertaining group phase, and let’s hope that the knock-out rounds give us more good football, and lots more drama. We’ll recap yesterday’s games, and the group stage in general, over on Patreon with our Euro 2024 podcast a bit later this morning, so please join us for that.

For now, have a good one.

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