Soccer-Czechs and Georgians look to rebound after Euro 2024 defeats


Soccer Football - Euro 2024 - Group F - Portugal v Czech Republic - Leipzig Stadium, Leipzig, Germany - June 18, 2024 Czech Republic players pose for a team group photo before the match REUTERS/Annegret Hilse

HAMBURG, Germany (Reuters) - After losing to more fancied opponents despite yeoman-like performances in their opening Euro 2024 matches, the Czech Republic and Georgia are aware that defeat will complicate their chances of reaching the knockout stage when they meet on Saturday.

While the Czechs dug in and defended mightily against Portugal only to lose to a stoppage-time goal, Georgia sizzled on their Euro debut with a never-say die effort against group leaders Turkey and were denied an equaliser by the width of a post in injury time. They ended up losing the match 3-1 after Turkey scored again in the dying seconds.

The results leave Georgia sitting at the bottom of Group F on goal difference but manager Willy Sagnol can take heart that his side, who are appearing in a major men's tournament for the first time as an independent nation, will apply what they learned from the loss.

When asked what was missing against Turkey, the Frenchman and former Bayern Munich defender said: "A bit of talent, a bit of experience - the sort of things we're only going to gain through being in tournaments like this. The more we play games like this the better we will be."

The pulsating opener should boost Georgia's confidence after they went toe-to-toe and pressed forward against a vibrant Turkey in arguably the most exciting match at the tournament to date.

Georgia will also hope Georges Mikautadze, who netted his country's first ever goal at the Euros, can keep on finding the back of net after scoring 11 goals in 26 appearances for the national team.

They will face a Czech side that had little possession against Portugal but defended ferociously and took a shock lead thanks to a Lukas Provod curled effort in the 62nd minute before conceding an own goal and then another in injury time.

Czech coach Ivan Hasek deployed a line of five players, and occasionally six, across the back, sending one man shuttling out to cover the player in possession and then scurrying back into position to shut off Ronaldo and Portugal.

The Czechs will look to play with more ambition against Georgia with Provod saying the team showed they can operate as a cohesive unit but will need to push forward more to find success in their second group match.

This would allow key players such as Bayern Leverkusen forward Patrik Schick – joint top scorer at the last Euro tournament - to operate more freely in dangerous areas rather than expend energy on mostly defending.

“We showed that we have a big heart, cohesion, that we can be aggressive, sacrifice for each other,” he told iDNES website.

“If we go into the next matches like this, we will be even more active and show a little - or rather a lot - more forward, we can be successful."

(Reporting by Michael Kahn, Editing by)

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