Last-chance miss denies Georgia its first win in draw with Czech Republic at Euro 2024

HAMBURG, Germany (AP) — Georgia earned its first ever point at a major tournament after drawing with the Czech Republic 1-1 at the European Championship on Saturday. It was nearly a win.

Midfielder Saba Lobjanidze fired his shot narrowly over the bar with the last kick of the game as Georgia’s promising three-on-one counterattack came to nothing.

Lobjanidze — who plays for Atlanta United in the U.S. state of Georgia — seemed to be in tears after the final whistle and was comforted by coach Willy Sagnol.

“As I tried to tell him, the ones who never tried, they will never miss. And the best way to miss is to try,” Sagnol said.

“Some mixed feelings after the match in the locker room. For the first minutes I think the players were a bit disappointed because of this massive opportunity but I hope they will quickly get the fact that they got their first ever point in a major tournament.”

There was a big mismatch in experience, with the Czech team playing in its eighth consecutive European Championship and Georgia, which was once part of the Soviet Union, making its debut as an independent nation.

Earlier, video reviews were in the spotlight.

The Czechs dominated the opening stages and celebrated the opening goal in the 23rd minute when Adam Hlozek bundled the ball into the net at the far post off a long throw.

Replays, however, showed Hlozek’s shot bounced back off goalkeeper Giorgi Mamardashvili and in off the Czech forward’s face and arm.

The situation was reversed when Georgia defender Guram Kashia shot straight at the goalkeeper just before halftime. Georgia fans rued the missed chance but celebrated when a video review found the ball came off Czech defender Robin Hranac’s arm a couple of seconds earlier.

Georgia, the only team making its debut at Euro 2024, then took the lead with a Georges Mikautadze penalty given for handball by Czech defender Robin Hranec.

The Czechs got back into the game when a header rebounded off the post and Patrik Schick scored with his chest for his sixth career goal at the European Championships, ranking him joint sixth on the all-time list.

Schick limped off soon after and applied ice to his calf, potentially a major concern for the Czech Republic given the Bayer Leverkusen striker’s importance to the team and his long record of previous injuries. “It’s no good,” Schick told Czech public TV about the injury.

VAR didn’t intervene later when the Czechs appealed for players being pushed by Georgia defenders in the penalty area, perhaps because the contact on both occasions was relatively slight.

The draw means both teams have one point and almost certainly require a win in their last group games to qualify for the knockout stages, even as one of the best third-place teams. Portugal leads Group F after beating Turkey 3-0 on Saturday.

For now, though, Georgia is celebrating a milestone in its soccer history, even as the country is divided politically at home.

“I think the whole country will celebrate that,” Sagnol said, “in a very special Georgian way.”


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