Georgia Set to Make International Tournament Debut at EURO 2024

8 Min Read
Georgia national football team | GFF

There aren’t many historic nights in Georgia football, but the nation will never forget the night of March 26. Celebrations erupted throughout the country as they beat Greece to secure a spot in the European Championship that will be held in Germany this summer. Willy Sagnol led his squad into the decisive playoff game with optimism despite being underwhelming favorites to make it through, and they did dramatically.

This year’s European Championship will mark Jvarosnebi’s (the Crusaders) first-ever appearance at a competitive tournament since the country gained independence from the Soviet Union fifteen years ago, a remarkable feat considering where they were as a football nation just a few years back. With kickoff in sight on June 18, there will be a high demand for EURO 2024 tickets for Georgia games as fans all over the world prepare to witness history in person. We take a quick look at Georgia’s formidable run to the Euros and what to expect from this team in Germany.

The Road to Euro 2024: Years in the Making

Georgia’s Euro 2024 Championship qualification would have been merely a pipe dream but for their continued success and ascension to the higher ranks of the Nations League. UEFA introduced the tournament in September 2018, creating two pathways for teams to qualify for the European Championship held every four years.

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The Nations League features UEFA’s 54 national teams divided into four leagues: League A, B, and C with twelve teams each, and League D with seven. The tournament format announced by UEFA allows winners of the bottom three leagues to be promoted to the next higher league, and this new development favoured the Crusaders, who became the first team to score a goal in the competition through Giorgi Chakvetadze in a 2-0 victory over Kazakhstan. They were also the first team to be promoted to a higher league after topping Nations League D the same year.

Despite their Group D success, Georgia failed to qualify for Euro 2020 after a disappointing display in the playoffs. Their only two wins came against Gibraltar, enough to take them through to the semi-finals to face Belarus. However, an unconvincing 1-0 win kept the nation’s hopes alive but they were knocked out by North Macedonia in the decisive round.

Following their underwhelming run in the playoffs, Georgia parted ways with then-head coach Ramaz Svandaze in 2020 and appointed his replacement, former France and Bayern Munich defender Willy Sagnol, on February 21, 2021. The former Bordeaux manager, who also served as Interim Coach for Bayern Munich in 2017, has tasted some level of success at the club level as a player, winning a Ligue 1 title with Monaco in 2000, five Bundesliga titles, and a Champions League trophy with Bayern Munich. He was also on the French team that finished as runners-up at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany.

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The Frenchman helped the Crusaders bounce back with a remarkable 2-0 win against Sweden during the FIFA World Cup qualifiers in 2021. Georgia improved on this performance, clinching the top spot in Nations League C, and securing a promotion to Nations League B. Georgia would finish fourth in the League B standing and qualify for a second play-off berth, with another opportunity to right their wrongs.

Sagnol’s men needed to win two knockout matches to qualify for EURO 2024. They won the first game convincingly, defeating Luxembourg in front of 55,000 home fans to earn a final playoff showdown against Greece. Georgia’s night looked to be heading in the wrong direction after goalkeeper Giorgi Loria received a straight red card at the stroke of halftime, but the Crusaders were able to see off pressure from the Euro 2004 winners for the remaining 75 minutes, forcing the game to penalties, and eventually winning the shootout 4-2.

Euro 2024 Preview

Georgia might have earned a well-deserved spot in Euro 2024, but they go into the tournament as underdogs. Jvarosnebi will need to go tooth and nail against the top teams in Europe for a shot at success.

Ranked 75th on the latest FIFA World Rankings, Georgia finds themselves in Group F, alongside Turkiye, Czech Republic, and Euro 2016 Champions Portugal. While it is highly unlikely they top the group, they have a decent chance to secure some points, enough to earn one of the available “best third-placed finish” spots or qualify for the Round of 16 as runners-up.

Should the Crusaders surprisingly top the group, they could find themselves facing one of the best third-placed teams from either Group A, B, or C. A rare win in the first knockout round could see them face the Netherlands in the quarterfinals. If Georgia can keep winning, they will likely face Spain or the host country in the semi-finals and could meet France or England in the finals.

How Georgia Could Possibly Line Up at Euro 2024

Since taking over as Georgia’s manager, Sagnol has led Georgia to 16 wins in 33 matches and has fielded 48 different players in that span. At the start of his tenure, the 45-year-old utilized a four-man defense but has since settled with a 3-5-2 / 5-3-2 formation. With this lineup, Georgia will depend heavily on their wingers for counter-attack opportunities to cause any threat on offence.

Giorgi Loria will be Sagnol’s preferred pick in front of the goal, with Guram Kashi, Lasha Dvali, and Solomon Kvirkvelia almost certain to form the team’s backline. Otar Kiteishvili will likely be Georgia’s first holding midfield option, while Giorgi Kochorashvili, Giorgi Chakvetadze, and Nika Kvekveskiri are potential locks in midfield.

Sagnol will hope to bring the best out of Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, who has been Georgia’s most important player en route to their EURO 2024 qualification. Napoli’s star forward is third on Georgia’s all-time scorer ranking, with 15 goals. He scored four goals in six games during the qualifiers and also recorded 11 Serie A goals. The 23-year-old can also create assists and was Serie A’s top assist provider in his debut season. Georges Mikautadze and Giorgi Chakvetadze are expected to be his offensive support during the tournament.

Georgia’s squad is certainly not the most impressive lineup in the tournament, but the team’s fighting spirit under Sagnol could be enough to cause an upset in the group stage, at least.