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Georgia hopes Cinderella run continues against Spain on TSN


It’s time for Georgia to get greedy.

The smallest nation at UEFA Euro 2024 finds itself in the Round of 16 and up against footballing royalty in Spain in Koln on Sunday. The match is a daunting one for the No. 74 team in the world, the lowest-ranked team in the tournament, but Willy Sagnol’s team is dreaming. They weren’t even supposed to be here, so why not make it count?

You can catch Georgia vs. Spain in the Round of 16 at UEFA Euro 2024 LIVE from Koln on Sunday with coverage getting underway at 2pm et/11am pt on TSN1/4, CTV, streaming on and on the TSN App.

It would be easy for Georgia to accept the journey itself as the reward. After reaching the tournament on penalties in a playoff victory over Greece, a spot in Group F alongside 2016 champions Portugal, Czechia and Turkiye appeared to be daunting.

Their first match was a rude awakening. A thrilling encounter against Turkiye ended in a 3-1 loss. The scoreline is an unflattering one because the wide-open match was much closer than a two-goal defeat. Georgia showed their pluckiness again in a 1-1 draw with Czechia, leaving themselves a chance to advance with a result against Cristiano Ronaldo and co. on Matchday 3.

And advance they did. Georgia earned the most famous victory in the nation’s history on Khvicha Kvaratskhelia’s goal just 91 seconds into the match – the fastest goal thus far at Euro 2024 – followed by Georges Mikautadze’s tournament-leading third goal from the spot in the 57th. The victory means Georgia will now take on a team they’re very familiar with in La Roja.

Spain and Georgia were in the same Euro qualifying group that was topped by La Roja. Spain won both of the matches between the nations by an aggregate score of 10-2, including a 7-1 win in Tbilisi where Alvaro Morata posted a hat trick. Still, Alex Grimaldo believes those matches mean nothing.

"Football changes rapidly," the Bundesliga winner with Bayer Leverkusen said. "Those results are in the past. We are confident and focused on what's ahead of us."

While Luis de la Fuente’s side finished their group stage as, perhaps, the most impressive team in the tournament with three wins and five goals scored to none against, Spain is well aware of the kind of problem that Giorgi Mamardashvili presents in the Georgia net. The 23-year-old goalkeeper has starred over the past three seasons at Valencia.

"He’s a good keeper,” outgoing Real Madrid defender Nacho said. “He’s doing very well in La Liga and he’s having a fantastic Euro. He’s an important player for Georgia. However, don’t worry, we’ll try to score as many past him as we can and try to ensure that he doesn’t have a good day. No question, though, he’s been demonstrating for years that he’s a good keeper.”

After the kind of group stage that La Roja had, expectations have changed. Though the three-time Euro winners and semi-finalists in 2020 are always considered contenders at international tournaments, Spain is now, perhaps, the outright favourite to claim Euro 2024. But Grimaldo finds the shift in perception funny.

"Look, about a month ago we were nowhere as far as people in general – and the media, specifically – thought,” he said. “Now people are saying we are favourites. Things change so quickly. We came to win; we still have that mentality, but being favourites or not is not important to that process."

While Spain is obviously not overlooking the threat from Georgia, it would be hard not to look at the rest of the bracket and see that La Roja is in the tougher half.  The winner of Germany and Denmark would await in the quarters. After that, dates with France, Belgium or Portugal are possible before the final. There simply is no margin for error.

"The pressure is the same when you pull this shirt on – no matter when or against whom – because it's the Spain strip," Grimaldo said. "But in the group stage, if you slip up you can put it right. Now, that's not so true, which means the all-or-nothing feeling…is vital."

Spain will be buoyed by the return of Rodri. The influential Manchester City midfielder is once again available after serving a one-game ban for booking accumulation. With his return, de la Fuente is likely to go back to the team he sent out for the matches against Croatia and Italy, rather than the one that took on Albania on Matchday 3.

Georgia has a booking ban to deal with of their own. U Craiova midfielder Anzor Mekvabishvili is unavailable for the match.

Spain and Georgia have met seven times before with Sunday’s match the first in tournament competition. La Roja have won all but one of the matches. Georgia’s lone victory, a 1-0 win, came back in 2016 in Madrid in the only friendly played between the two nations. Tornike Okriashvili’s 40th-minute marker was the difference.

POTENTIAL SPAIN XI (4-3-2-1): Unai Simon; Dani Carvajal, Robin Le Normand, Aymeric Laporte, Marc Cucurella; Pedri, Rodri, Fabian Ruiz; Lamine Yamal, Nico Williams; Alvaro Morata

POTENTIAL GEORGIA XI (5-3-2): Giorgi Mamardashvili; Giorgi Tsitaishvili, Lasha Dvali, Guram Kashia, Solomon Kvirkvelia, Otar Kakabadze; Giorgi Kochorashvili, Otar Kiteishvili, Giorgi Chakvetadze; Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, Georges Mikautadze