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Georgia beat Greece on penalties to qualify for first-ever finals

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Georgia qualified for Euro 2024 on Tuesday, winning their play-off against Greece 4-2 on penalties after a 0-0 draw at the end of extra time to advance to their first ever major tournament finals.

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Nika Kvekveskiri stroked in the decisive penalty in the shoot-out to spark a pitch invasion from fans at the Boris Paichadze Stadium in Tbilisi after Tasos Bakasetas and Giorgos Giakoumakis both failed to score from the spot for Greece.

Surprise European champions in 2004, Greece’s defeat means their wait to qualify for a first major tournament since the 2014 World Cup goes on.

Ranked 77th in the world, Georgia will join Turkey, Portugal and the Czech Republic in Group F at the European Championship in Germany in June.

It will be their first appearance at a major tournament since the country in the Caucasus of 3.7 million people gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

They had never come close to qualifying before, until losing in a play-off at the same stage in qualifying for the last Euro, going down 1-0 at home to North Macedonia in 2020.

This time they finished fourth out of five teams in their qualifying group, with their only two wins both coming against bottom side Cyprus.

However, their previous performances in the UEFA Nations League gave them a chance to advance via the play-offs, and they beat Luxembourg at home in last week’s semi-finals to set up Tuesday’s decider.

Coached by former France international Willy Sagnol, Georgia’s undisputed star man is the Napoli winger Khvicha Kvaratskhelia.

He was not on the pitch for the penalty shoot-out, having been substituted in extra time of a game lacking in chances.

Greece came closest to scoring when defender Konstantinos Mavropanos headed against the bar in extra time.

Yet their captain Bakasetas had his penalty, Greece’s first in the shoot-out, repelled by the Georgia goalkeeper, Giorgi Mamardashvili of Valencia.

Georges Mikautadze then missed for Georgia, meaning the sides were all square until Giakoumakis of Atlanta United squandered Greece’s fourth kick, allowing Kvekveskiri to score the winner.

(AFP)

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