Down to 10 men for 75 minutes at home, Georgia hung on to force penalties against Euro 2004 champions Greece. A scoreless 120 minutes meant spot kicks would send one of these teams through to Germany this summer to compete in the European Championship. Georgia converted on four out of its five penalties in the shootout, while Greece, which went second, only scored two out of four. As a result, Georgia advanced to the tournament proper this summer.

That is an especially notable occurrence because Georgia has never played in a major competition. This is a nation that has never truly been close to qualifying for either. Yet, the production of several top talents, highlighted by Napoli sensation Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, has propelled Georgia into a first major tournament. Now, droves of Georgia supporters will flock to Germany to see their team in a top-level competition for the first time.

The March international break was the deciding point for 12 teams looking to secure one of the three spaces available at Euro 2024. The reason Georgia was in the playoffs at all was because of its performance in the Nations League C. As a group winner, Georgia earned promotion to Nations League B and a spot in the Euro 2024 playoffs. In terms of actual qualifying, Georgia finished fourth in its group, and only the top two teams automatically qualified.

Georgia’s first game came against Luxembourg. A 2-0 win at home in Tbilisi set up this tie against Greece, also in Tbilisi. Despite Georgian goalkeeper Giorgi Loria picking up a red card in first-half stoppage time, Greece failed to break down the Georgian defense.

Georgia is the only debutante at Euro 2024

Having now qualified for the European Championships, Georgia can look forward to a first group-stage appearance at any major international competition. For Georgia, that means three games against other top European sides. Yet, the three teams Georgia is facing may not be the top contenders for the trophy.

Portugal, undoubtedly the top team in Group F with Georgia, is looking for a second European Championship title. The other two teams in the group are Turkey and the Czech Republic. Turkey can be a challenging opponent having finished at the top of its Euro 2024 qualifying group. Likewise, the Czech Republic lost just once in qualifying. These are not easy games for Georgia by any means, but there are certainly harder groups.

An in-form Khvicha Kvaratskhelia can be the impetus for Georgia to have success at the European Championships. While the Napoli winger has played in Champions League knockout ties and has won the Scudetto, many of his teammates will be playing the biggest games of their careers in this European Championship. The 23-man squad is split among clubs in 16 nations. Therefore, Willy Sagnol has the challenge of allowing these players to blend despite going up against different styles at the club level.

That worked against Greece to set this opportunity up. Now, Georgia can enjoy an appearance in Germany on the European stage.