Armenian Soccer
Armenian Soccer

Ronaldo in the shadow of Kvaratskhelia

The group stage of the European Championships held in Germany has ended. It’s still hard to predict who might become the champion. However, it is very easy to point out the biggest revelation and disappointment of the tournament.

This disappointment is undoubtedly Croatia, the third team of the last World Cup, which returned home after the group stage, allowing itself to score an equalizing goal against Italy in the 9th minute of added time. This tournament seems to be the end of the golden generation of Croatian football led by Luka Modrić.

The highlight of the tournament is undoubtedly the neighboring team — Georgia, which makes its debut at the great football tournament. In their first match, in my opinion the most interesting one in the group stage, Georgia lost to Turkey 3-1. But the result itself does not reflect the match, which was downright thrilling at times. The Georgians were losing 2-1 and in added time they had two opportunities to equalize, only to finally lose the third goal.

To some extent, the Georgians remind me the Wales team from EURO 2016. However, they are not that strong, because I don’t think they have a chance to repeat their result, to be in the semi-finals. The absolute star of that team, who definitely stood out from other players, was Gareth Bale. In this respect, he is similar to Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, also crazy like him in dynamic actions.

When the Georgians won against Portugal 2-0 in the third match of the tournament, Cristiano Ronaldo remained in the complete shadow of Kvaratskhelia. He resented his teammates several times, expressing his anger in an extremely expressive way. He reacted equally expressively when he was replaced after the break. But after this break he shouldn’t go on the field at all! He was shown a yellow card in the first half. When it ended, he started talking, complementing it with downright rude gestures, first to one of the referee’s assistants, then to the technical referee. It showed that he was being dragged by his shirt.

Both saw these gestures. Both of them did not react and did not give any signal to the main referee. If I were them, I would have sent him off immediately, showing him a second yellow card.

It is worth nothing that the fantastic results of the Georgians are a triumph of… UEFA. After all, they advanced to the finals thanks to the play-off path connected with the Nations League, as a representative of a lower division. The idea seemed absurd to promote the weaker teams that play in them in this way. And yet it definitely defended itself, since today everyone talks about Georgians.

According to the candidates to the title, the home fans believe in their team more and more. Even though I had this impression earlier, they were most happy with… a draw. The Germans played poorly against Switzerland, scoring a goal to make it 1-1 at the end, which gave them first place in the group, thanks to which the fans literally went crazy with happiness, and the goal scorer, Niclas Füllkrug, became a national hero.

I wish Germany the best for a simple reason. The experience of the past championships has taught me that the longer the host of the event participates in it, the better atmosphere is in the country where it is held. When Germany hosted the World Cup in 2006, the atmosphere was great until the end, as they won third place. What will it be like now?

This is a tournament of sold out stadiums, where lots of people standing outside each of them with signs saying they want to buy tickets. Because it is the fans who define the real color of the event. The Scots stood out in particular in this respect, buying entire crates of beer and even taking them to subway cars or S-Bahn suburban trains!

Many local fans — emigrants who have been living in Germany for years — also supported their teams. Turks, Croatians and Albanians were the absolute majority in the stands during their national teams’ matches, drowning out their rivals’ fans with cheering. There were tens of thousands of them on each! The stadiums resembled a volcano that erupted with every goal scored or even with every dynamic action.

So far, the impressions from the championship are definitely positive. I wish myself and everyone else that it would be the same till the end of EURO 2024.

© Dariusz Kurowski exclusively for Armenian Soccer

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