Kvaratskhelia says reaching last 16 is ‘best day of Georgia’s life’

Estimated read time 3 min read

Kvhicha Kvaratskhelia said helping to fire Georgia into the last 16 of their first major tournament against all odds gave the country the “best day of their lives”.

Kvaratskhelia scored inside 92 seconds before Georges Mikautadze scored a second-half penalty following a VAR review to beat Portugal 2-0 and secure a knockout tie against Spain in Cologne on Sunday. Georgia recorded a historic win against one of the favourites, ranked 68 places above them, to avoid elimination.

“This is the best day in the lives of Georgians,” Kvaratskhelia said. “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.

“When you wear the badge of your country it makes you so proud. It is the best day of my life. Even if there is just a 1% chance, we proved that you can make it happen.”

Georgia made some superb defensive blocks and their 23-year-old goalkeeper Giorgi Mamardashvili was again outstanding. “There was no individual best player, it was a team effort and we showed that we could play,” Kvaratskhelia said.

“I mentioned before that it doesn’t matter who we play because we go to win. We showed that we can do everything together. Unity makes us stronger. We gave the supporters happiness and we showed that we stand strong together.”

Roberto Martínez, the Portugal manager, made nine changes with one eye on their last-16 match, with Slovenia their confirmed opponents in Frankfurt on Monday. Cristiano Ronaldo was the only outfield player to keep his place but endured a difficult night, with the captain booked for dissent and withdrawn midway through the second half.

“We started with low intensity, that’s what Georgia needed and later on we weren’t clear-headed enough when it came to the last pass in front of goal,” Martínez said.

“We didn’t underestimate Georgia. I think their goalkeeper Mamardashvili had an amazing performance. We tried to score but couldn’t and that made Georgia believe all the more. It was a deserved victory.”

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Kvaratskhelia, who grew up idolising Ronaldo and met him when Dinamo Tbilisi opened their academy in 2013, swapped shirts with the 39-year-old forward at the final whistle.

“Before the match there was a meeting and he wished me success and it was so much for me because I would never have imagined that he would come to me and say something to me,” the Napoli forward said. “He is a great player and a great person. He is a great personality in and outside of football.”

Source: theguardian.com

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