Published: 10:24, June 19, 2024
Türkiye boss Montella gets best birthday present with Georgia win
By Reuters
Türkiye's Kerem Akturkoglu (bottom) celebrates with his teammate Arda Guler after scoring his side's third goal during a Group F match between Türkiye and Georgia at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Dortmund, Germany, June 18, 2024. (PHOTO / AP)

DORTMUND, Germany - Türkiye coach Vincenzo Montella spent his 50th birthday on Tuesday in the perfect way possible: watching his side win their opening game of Euro 2024 in dramatic fashion over battling underdogs Georgia.

Real Madrid starlet Arda Guler gave the Italian what he described as "the best birthday present that I have ever received" with a beautiful long-range strike that put Türkiye ahead with less than half an hour to play.

READ MORE: Conceicao to the rescue as Portugal snatch 2-1 win over Czechs

"My coach had wanted a goal as a birthday present," a bashful-looking Guler told reporters. "I hope I can continue these goals."

Georgia repeatedly went close to the equalizer their tenacious performance deserved and forced a vital block from Samet Akaydin in added time, before Kerem Akturkoglu made it 3-1 with virtually the last kick of the match.

"We are just thrilled," Montella told Turkish TV. "It was a lot of coincidences coming together today, my 50th birthday, Eid at home, the Euro opener."

READ MORE: Romania stun Ukraine with first Euro win in 24 years

He told reporters: "It really was the perfect day, in terms of the spirit and in terms of the best present I could get."

Montella, though, said Türkiye could have avoided Georgia's late surge had they killed off the game and that his players must be more clinical against Portugal and Czech Republic.

He also, in response to a question about Turkish fans' dreams, urged supporters to rein in their ambitions for now - though anyone present in Dortmund might think that is a vain hope.

READ MORE: Ronaldo triggering a wave of euphoria around Portugal's Euro 2024 squad

"Our dreams were very much focused on this match," Montella told reporters. "We managed to win (our first game of the tournament) for the first time, so there will be a lot of first times."

He said Türkiye would focus on trying to win against Portugal, a side they have never beaten, on Saturday to secure qualification for the last 16. "Then more dreams will emerge."