Brawls, biblical rain and wonder goals: How Turkey vs Georgia turned Euro 2024 upside down

Turkey 3-1 Georgia: Fan violence and storms added an edge to the Group F game before it had even kicked off

Alex Pattle
in Dortmund
Tuesday 18 June 2024 20:16 BST
Allianz Arena erupts as Germany score first goal of Euro 2024

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Louise Thomas

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You’d be forgiven for having earmarked Turkey vs Georgia as the most low-key fixture of the Euro 2024 group stage. After all, the combined ranking of the teams was the most modest at the tournament so far, and Georgia entered Group F with no European Championship experience to their name. This game, though? It turned into something far beyond a football match.

Perhaps that should have been evident in the hours before kick-off. Biblical rain and severe weather warnings led German authorities to encourage fans without tickets to stay inside, and to watch the match at home if possible. The elements were deemed a threat to the safety of supporters, before their safety was even threatened by fan violence inside the BVB Stadium in Dortmund.

But when that violence began, as water spilt through the roof of the arena and fans spilt from their seats to attack one another, questions arose. Would the game go ahead, and if it were to, would it even resemble a football match?

Such is the way that Borussia Dortmund’s stadium contains and augments sound, there is something almost oppressive and overwhelming about it – intimidating, even, on this occasion. The arena, however, was struggling to contain anything beyond the noise. Not the water, not the pugilistic urges of a segment of supporters.

To say the tension could be cut with a knife would be to give unnecessary credit to knives. You could have lacerated the tension with a balloon.

It felt as though everything could come crashing down at any moment, courtesy of the slightest move or even thought. It felt as if a foul on the pitch could incite a riot, such was the air of hostility, yet thankfully the violence in the stands did seem to have subsided by kick-off.

Turkey and Georgia fans fight in the stands before kick-off
Turkey and Georgia fans fight in the stands before kick-off (Reuters)

Still, the intensity endured. Turkey fans, several wielding flares and others banging drums, had whistled through the Georgian national anthem at an almost excruciating pitch, and they sustained that antagonism for every spell of possession that Georgia had, as if their opponents keeping the ball was some kind of affront to the Turkish population – which is considerable in Germany, as it happens.

When Turkey midfielder Kaan Ayhan slung a shot against the post in the first half, the ball subsequently skidding across the goal line, his compatriots in the crowd were ready to lose themselves in ecstasy. Soon thereafter, they could, as Mert Muldur opened the scoring with the goal of Euro 2024 so far.

With 25 minutes gone, the Turkey right-back arrived at the edge of the box, as the ball – surrounded by lashes of rain – dropped from the sky. It was a finish from the heavens, too, as Muldur met the ball with his right boot and buried it in the top corner.

Storms in Dortmund caused rain to pour through the roof of the BVB Stadion
Storms in Dortmund caused rain to pour through the roof of the BVB Stadion (Getty)

Turkey thought they had another goal within two minutes, as Kenan Yildiz turned home a tap-in, only to be denied by an offside ruling. But just as the Turkey team and their fans were making this game their own (there’s that word “game” again, implying a levity that was nowhere to be found in Dortmund), Georgia’s players and supporters imposed themselves emphatically.

As another Turkish flare was ignited, so were Georgian spirits, who reacted to a body check on Giorgi Chakvetadze by willing their team to stand up for themselves. And so the team did.

As rain spat through the residual haze of the latest flare, in some scene bordering on dystopia, Georgia found euphoria. Specifically, Georges Mikautadze found euphoria. And he found it in the form of an equaliser, his near-post run and tap-in sending the ball squirming under Turkish goalkeeper Mert Gunok.

Half-time offered a brief respite, a short spell for pulses and heart rates to slow, and then the chaos resumed.

Georges Mikautadze equalises for Georgia after Mert Muldur’s wonder goal
Georges Mikautadze equalises for Georgia after Mert Muldur’s wonder goal (Getty)

When Muldur took out Georgia’s Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, the referee urged the benches to calm down. He might have demanded the same when Turkey wanted a penalty for a trip and shove on Arda Guler, but the Real Madrid teenager had been fouled outside the box.

Nothing came of the free kick, but before long, Guler conjured more chaos. The 19-year-old was allowed far too much time and space outside the area, and he guided the ball perfectly into the top corner. The chaos came in the stands, in fact – in the celebrations of Turkey fans – but the strike itself was much more refined.

Georgia continued to fight, almost equalising when Giorgi Kochorashvili chested down the ball in Turkey’s box, flicked it over the tackling leg of his nearest man, but lofted it onto the bar. It was as close as Georgia came to parity, along with an added-time header that struck the post.

Though the fighting subsided for the most part, the crowds maintained a ferocious intensity
Though the fighting subsided for the most part, the crowds maintained a ferocious intensity (Getty)

Moments after the latter effort, Muhammed Kerem Akturkoglu finished a Turkey counter by rolling the ball into an empty net. Georgia keeper Giorgi Mamardashvili had abandoned his post, amid his side’s desperate pursuit of the equaliser.

All around the ground, Turkey fans celebrated victory by waving their phone torches, illuminating the rain that had not stopped pouring for four hours. Outside the ground, car horns blared in celebration.

Turkey and Georgia played in a storm at Euro 2024. They just so happened to create one, too.

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