Tskhadadze’s Revitalized Georgia No Pushover for Poles

The result, a 2-1 defeat, may have been familiar for Georgia but the performance in Linz in the friendly against Ukraine in the Austrian city of Linz gave further reason to be encouraged by Kakha Tskhadadze’s apparently refreshed side.

An uncharacteristic error by goalkeeper Giorgi Loria proved pivotal in a closely contested encounter, presenting as it did a gift of an opening goal to Ukraine’s Artem Kravets after which the widely coveted Yevhen Konoplyanka added a neat second to put Georgia out of sight.

However, a fine consolation by Mate Vatsadze from a sumptuous Levan Kenia cross in the closing stages was the least Georgia deserved from a display that contained a high tempo and sense of freedom which was sorely missing in the latter days of Tskhadadze’s predecessor Temur Ketsbaia.

Georgia’s next task is a Euro 2016 qualifier against Poland in Warsaw and, although the Georgians’ hopes of even a play-off spot are at best distant, there is little doubt that they are in far better spirits than when Poland cruised to a 4-0 demolition in Tbilisi back in November.

Tskhadadze will however have to make do without suspended captain Jaba Kankava, who has been Georgia’s most consistent player in recent years. Without the defensive qualities of the Dnipro midfielder, Tskhadadze may be forced into an adventurous lineup in Warsaw.

It will almost certainly mean a first competitive start for Vitesse Arnhem’s box-to-box midfielder Valeri Qazaishvili, something many Georgian fans have been wanting for some time. Qazaishvili, who finished the season strongly in Holland and helped Vitesse to a Europa League place, added verve to Georgia’s performance against Ukraine and the 22-year-old ought to be a national mainstay for years to come.

Up front, Vatsadze’s goal should give him the nod over Tskhadadze’s son Bachana in the absence of the injured Levan Mchedlidze.

Kankava’s armband was taken by central defender Aleksandre Amisulashvili and his return from the international wilderness provides a degree of composure alongside the reliable Guram Kashia.

The displays against Germany and Ukraine belie Georgia’s world ranking position of 139th, but until Tskhadadze can deliver a result to complement the improving performances, it is in these murky depths that Georgian football will wallow.

Poland, group leaders and so far unbeaten, may not represent the most obvious opponent against whom to halt this slide, but if the hosts are expecting the same bedraggled and downbeat Georgia they faced in November, they could be in for a damaging surprise.

Alastair Watt

11 June 2015 21:31