All you need to know about Georgia ahead of tomorrow's World Cup qualifier

Here is the lowdown ahead of Ireland’s important Group D World Cup qualifier in Tbilisi.

Georgia are yet to win a game in Group D so far this qualifying campaign.
Georgia are yet to win a game in Group D so far this qualifying campaign.
Image: EMPICS Sport

Squad to face Ireland:

Goalkeepers: Makaridze, Kvaskhvadze, Revishvili

Defenders: Kasia, Kvirkvelia, Tabidze, Khokolava, Navalovski, Kakhabadze, Lobjanidze, Shergelashvili

Midfielders: Kvekveskiri, Daushvili, Kankava, Gvilya, Aburjania, Ananidze, Qazaishvili, Merebashvili, Jaba, Chanturia

Forwards: Dvalishvili, Arabidze, Kvilitaia, Sikharulidze

Star player: Jano Ananidze (Spartak Moscow)

24-year-old Anandidze was linked with moves to both Liverpool and Arsenal in the past and remains one of Spartak Moscow’s most consistent performers after eight years and over 100 appearances for the side.

The attacking midfielder scored four goals as Spartak won the 2016/17 Russian Premier League and Russian Super Cup in July, making 23 appearances in total last season.

He also made appearances in both legs as the side failed to make it through their third round Europa League qualifier against AEK Larnaca FC, who beat League of Ireland side Cork City in the previous round.

Soccer - UEFA Euro 2016 - Qualifying - Group D - Georgia v Scotland - Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena Source: PA Archive/PA Images

Ananidze was laballed a ‘wonderkid’ during his teenage years, with Premier League sides, as well as Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund interested in his signature.

He became the youngest player to score in the Russian Premier League just eight days after his 17th birthday, while he also became Georgia’s youngest international when making his debut against Italy in a 2010 World Cup qualifier.

Since then, the playmaker has established himself as a mainstay in evolving Spartak sides since joining in 2009, also winning the Russian Cup while on loan at Rostov in 2013.

One to watch: Valeri Qazaishvili (San Jose Earthquakes)

Valeri Qazaishvili Qazaishvili playing against Sporting Kansas City for the San Jose Earthquakes last month. Source: Amy Kontras

Qazaishvili is Georgia’s top goalscorer in qualification with two goals — a third of his country’s total haul of six.

He scored to give Georgia the lead in their 1-1 draw with Moldova last November and was also on the scoresheet in a 2-2 draw in the reverse fixture in June, leveling proceedings with just under 15 minutes remaining.

The 24-year-old has enjoyed spells in Georgia with FC Saburtalo Tbilisi and FC Metalurgi Rustavi, as well as a six-year stint with Eredivisie side SBV Vitesse in Holland.

The forward won the Polish Premier League last season with Legia Warsaw before joining the San Jose Earthquakes earlier this summer, scoring on his MLS debut against the New York Red Bulls.

The player has represented Georgia at U17, U19 and U21 level before making his senior debut in 2014, scoring five goals in 25 appearances for his country so far.

History in qualification:

Georgia have never qualified for a major senior international tournament, making their debut on the international stage in 1990 while not competing in their first qualification campaign until 1996.

That debut campaign proved their best historically, finishing behind eventual Euro 1996 winners Germany and Bulgaria in third spot.

Ever since then, the side has finished towards the bottom end of their qualifying groups, with Ireland fans familiar with the side during their meetings in qualification for both World Cup 2010 and Euro 2016.

Ireland beat the side both times 2-1 during the Giovanni Trapattoni era, while winning their more recent Euro 2016 qualifiers too — 2-1 and 1-0.

How have they done so far this campaign?

Georgia currently sit fifth in Group D with just three points from a possible 18 and just one point off bottom placed Moldova.

Former Slovakia manager Vladimir Weiss, who will be familiar to Ireland fans from the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign when they took on the Slovaks, took on a tough role when appointed Georgia manager in 2016, but has largely met expectations for a team ranked 112th in the world.

Weiss’ men have yet to table a win but have proved tricky opposition for many teams in Group D, picking up three draws, while also pushing the Boys in Green close in Dublin with a 1-0 defeat thanks to a second-half Seamus Coleman winner back in October.

Wales v Georgia - 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying - Group D - Cardiff City Stadium The side drew 1-1 with Wales in Cardiff despite Gareth Bale giving his side the lead last October. Source: EMPICS Sport

Georgia have drawn with bottom-placed Moldova home and away, while also causing a major upset with a 1-1 draw against Wales in October on the same night Ireland beat Moldova 3-1 in Chisinău.

They have scored six goals so far, picking up 12 yellow cards and hitting the post six times in six games, all the while maintaining an 84% pass accuracy in qualification.

While they have caused an upset with their draw with Wales in Cardiff, the country have more or less performed as expected, also losing at home to group leaders Serbia, at home to Austria and away to Ireland on top of their three draws.

Despite the absence of a win so far in Group D, they will take solace in the fact that they have drawn three of their last four qualifiers and have not lost a competitive fixture since last October.

What happened when we last played them?

Ireland met Georgia at the Aviva Stadium in October 2016 where a brilliant solo run from Seamus Coleman cutting in from the wing proved the difference in a fortuitous 1-0 win.

With Georgia entering Group D as bottom seeds, Martin O’Neill would have preferred a higher scoreline against arguably their weakest opponents in qualifying and the narrow win did not always look guaranteed as the clock approached the hour mark.

Ireland celebrate as Seamus Coleman scores a goal Ireland celebrate Seamus Coleman's winning goal against Georgia in Dublin. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

In fact our assessment from the game’s interval with the scores poised at 0-0 read: “Having come to Dublin probably thinking a draw would be a good result, on the basis of the first half, Georgia will likely now feel a win is achievable.”

However from thereon in, Ireland stepped up a gear and, making his 40th appearance for his country, captain Coleman scored his first international goal with a brilliant run.

During a mazy dribble, he beat defender Navalovski before slotting the ball past goalkeeper Loria to secure an important three points.

What the manager has said:

Vladimir Weiss Weiss has yet to secure a competitive win as Georgia boss. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Vladimir Weiss was appointed Georgia manager in 2016 and ever since has enjoyed some memorable nights, despite just three non-competitive wins.

His side stunned the world by beating Spain in October 2016, while also securing two other friendly wins against Latvia and St Kitts and Navis.

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Following Ireland’s 1-0 win against his side last year, Weiss was full praise of for goalscorer Seamus Coleman.

He said: “We must lock up Coleman every time. One chance brought success for Ireland. He’s a fantastic player, but we made one mistake and Ireland scored.”

Source: BeniON/YouTube

The manager rued a missed opportunity, as his side had played well in both of their opening qualifiers only to come away with no points.

“We played well against Austria and we have played well against Ireland. But we have zero points. This is football,” he said.

“It’s not only unlucky. It is unlucky, but as I have said from the first day, we cannot make one mistake.”

Weiss will be without long-serving goalkeeper Loria, as well as Nika Kacharava, while defender Jimi Tabidze faces a late fitness test.

What to expect on Saturday:

Georgia have no realistic chance of qualifying for next summer’s World Cup but will continue to enjoy their tag of problematic upsetters in Group D.

They forced Wales to drop two points already in the campaign in Cardiff, which put a significant dent in Chris Coleman’s side’s chances of making it to Russia.

With nothing to lose, critics have debated what to expect from the hosts on Saturday.

Their performance in Dublin, holding Ireland to 0-0 for 56 minutes, shows not only that they can sit deep and soak up pressure, but also create chances with their most talented and recognised internationals all playing in attack and midfield.

Wales v Georgia - 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying - Group D - Cardiff City Stadium Georgia will be without goalkeeper Loria. Source: NIck Potts

Georgia will crucially be without long-serving goalkeeper Giorgi Loria of Anzhi, who has been the country’s number one for almost a decade, with both of his possible replacements, Giorgi Makaridze and Nukri Revishvili, untested at international level.

Ireland have played eight and won eight against Georgia, however they have not made it easy for themselves in recent meetings — in six of their seven competitive clashes, the winning margin has been by no more than a single goal.

Automatic qualification is still on the table for Ireland. A win on Saturday should be within their grasp, with three points giving O’Neill’s side a platform to make it two wins from two against Serbia on Tuesday. Six points from these two matches would consequently ensure top spot is theirs to lose heading into the final set of qualifiers in October.

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