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UEFA European U21 Championships: Georgia Shocks Portugal with Historic Victory

Tournament co-hosts Georgia celebrated their inaugural victory at the 2023 UEFA European U21 Championships, stunning tournament favorites Portugal and making a resounding statement in the competition.

the player's of Georgia celebrate after winning the UEFA Under-21 Euro 2023 group A match between Georgia and Portugal
[Credit: Giorgi Ebanoidze/DeFodi Images]

Goals from Giorgi Gagua and Saba Sazonov propelled Ramaz Svanadze’s team to a historic win, placing Georgia atop Group A with 3 points.

The first half witnessed Portugal’s dominance in possession for the initial 20 minutes, though they struggled to test Georgian goalkeeper Luka Kutaladze. Georgia’s solid defensive performance frustrated their opponents, but they lacked attacking threat as well.

In the 37th minute, Georgia broke the deadlock with Giorgi Gagua converting a well-executed chance. Heoriy Tsitaishvili’s precise long ball found Gagua, who outmuscled Tomas Araujo and calmly slotted the ball into the bottom right corner.

Minutes later, Kutaladze pulled off a crucial save to deny Afonso Souza, preserving Georgia’s lead. On the stroke of halftime, Georgia extended their advantage as Saba Sazonov headed home Tsitaishvili’s corner kick, leaving Celton Biai helpless in the Portuguese goal.

Despite Portugal’s control of possession and numerous chances created, Georgia efficiently capitalized on their opportunities and entered halftime with a surprising 2-0 lead.

The second half saw Portugal immediately pushing for a goal, and Francisco Conceicao’s dangerous cross rattled off the crossbar, sparing Georgia’s defense. As the match progressed, Georgia adopted a defensive approach, soaking up Portuguese pressure and safeguarding their two-goal advantage.

In the 74th minute, Kutaladze produced another vital save, parrying Nuno Tavares’ long-range effort, while Sazonov made an exceptional recovery tackle to deny Henrique Araujo a tap-in from the rebound. Portugal’s hopes of mounting a comeback were further dashed when Tomas Araujo received a red card for impeding Georgian substitute Giorgi Gocholeishvili during a counter-attack.

In the closing minutes, Georgia had two promising counter-attacking opportunities but failed to capitalize, leaving the win somewhat in doubt. Nonetheless, they stood firm against Portugal’s late onslaught to secure a historic victory against the 2021 finalists.

Ramaz Svanadze’s team clinched their first-ever 3 points in the championships, instilling immense confidence as they prepare for their upcoming group game against Belgium. Meanwhile, Portugal must regroup and focus on a crucial match against the Netherlands.

Among the standout performers, the entire Georgian backline, including the goalkeeper, exhibited an outstanding collective effort. However, special mention goes to Saba Khvadagiani and Saba Sazonov for their remarkable blocks and decisive tackles that thwarted the Portuguese attackers. Both players will play pivotal roles as Georgia progresses in the tournament.

Despite being on the losing side, substitute Francisco Conceicao, a winger from Ajax, showcased his bright attacking prowess, striving to inject more intent into Portugal’s offensive play.

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