EURO 2024: Georgia hold Czechs to 1-1 draw

France drew against Netherlands without Mbappe, Austria closed in on last-16

Afp June 23, 2024


European Championship newcomers Georgia took their first point of the tournament in a 1-1 draw with the Czech Republic on Saturday that left both teams probably needing to win their final Group F game to stand any chance of advancing.

Georges Mikautadze converted a stoppage-time penalty at the end of the first half to put Georgia ahead but Patrik Schick equalised in the 59th minute when the ball rebounded off the far post and on to his chest from Ondrej Lingr's glancing header from a corner.

Both the Czechs and Georgia lost their opening games and, with one point each, will be under immense pressure to get a result in their last group games on Wednesday. Portugal and Turkey were playing later in Dortmund in Saturday's other Group F game.

Kante shines for Mbappe-less France

N'Golo Kante was the unlikely star of the show in the absence of a frustrated Kylian Mbappe as France and the Netherlands edged towards the last 16 of Euro 2024 after a 0-0 draw in Leipzig.

Recalled from a two-year international exile, Kante has rolled back the years in Germany with back-to-back man-of-the-match awards to become the fulcrum of Didier Deschamps' midfield once more.

A star of France's World Cup winning team in 2018, Kante's time with Les Bleus appeared spent after he departed Europe to join Saudi side Al-Ittihad 12 months ago.

Injuries had blighted the end of his spell at Chelsea and cost him a place at the World Cup two years ago.

Deschamps' decision to bring back the 33-year-old has proven inspired despite some initial scepticism.

"N'Golo is still out there running," Deschamps quipped in his post-match press conference on Friday.

"But he doesn't only run. He also has a capacity to carry the ball up the field, which is important to complement our other players in midfield so we have variety and we are not always predictable."

Questions have been raised over how big European names lured by the riches of the Saudi Pro League would fare when thrust back into the intensity of an international tournament.

But Kante has shown that a less demanding Saudi campaign could even be beneficial in comparison to those players worn out by gruelling seasons in Europe's top-five leagues.

"It's important (to make a good impression), especially when you come back to the national team," said Kante.

As impressive as his ball-winning and boundless energy has been against Austria and the Netherlands, the fact the diminutive midfielder has been France's star so far tells its own story.

The 2022 World Cup finalists have managed just one goal in their opening two games and even that came via Austria defender Maximilian Wober.

Mbappe's broken nose against Austria, which ruled him out on Friday, has not helped.

But more is expected of a forward line that also boasts Antoine Griezmann, Olivier Giroud, Marcus Thuram, Ousmane Dembele and Kingsley Coman.

Thankfully for France's hopes of becoming European champions for a third time, Mbappe looks set to be able to return with the aid of a mask.

The Dutch stalemate continued a worrying trend for Deschamps without their star man.

Over the past two years, France have not won any of the seven games that Mbappe has not started.

"Obviously the team is on a different plane when Kylian is in it," added Deschamps.

Austria down Poland

Austria boosted their hopes of reaching the Euro 2024 knockout rounds on Friday as Marko Arnautovic scored in an impressive 3-1 win over Poland, for whom Robert Lewandowski only managed an ineffective substitute appearance.

Ralf Rangnick's Austria will likely secure qualification for the last 16 if they can avoid defeat in their final Group D game against the Netherlands on Tuesday.

Poland can no longer finish in the top two and need to defeat France to have any chance of progressing as one of the four best third-placed teams.

However, they will be out before that game if the Dutch fail to beat France later Friday. 



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