Georgia Shock Reigning European Champions Spain with “Unbelievable” Victory

MADRID - A first-half goal from Tornike Okriashvili proved sufficient to give Georgia an unfathomable 1-0 win over Spain at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez in the suburbs of Madrid on June 7.

Ranked 137th in the world, a full 131 places below their illustrious and medal-laden opponents, Georgia pulled off one of the greatest sporting results in its history, and, regardless of this not being a competitive fixture, surely the best ever result for the national football team.

Many observers had indeed expected an historic night, but not for positive reasons. Friday’s embarrassing 5-1 demolition at the hands of Romania was widely felt as a new low for Georgian football, and the prospect of a fearsome Spanish side four days later prompted fears of a severe losing margin, perhaps surpassing the record 6-1 reverse at the hands of Denmark in 2005.

But under-fire head coach Vladimir Weiss, only three months in the job and who later described the result as “unbelievable”, and his much criticised men had other ideas.

Playing with what at times appeared to be a 9-0-1 formation, Georgia soaked up what was a manageable amount of Spanish pressure. Aritz Aduriz headed narrowly wide of target before Thiago struck the inside if Nukri Revishvili’s post as an erstwhile pedestrian Spain began to properly threaten as the half-hour mark ticked by.

By this stage, Georgia’s flurries forward had been rare and without consequence as striker Lado Dvalishvili trotted a lonesome figure in the centre circle.

Then suddenly, with five minutes until half-time, Spain sloppily conceded possession on the halfway line. Valeri Kazaishvili strode forward to the edge of the Spanish box and just when he was being thwarted, Jaba Jigauri took over to slide the ball across for Okriashvili to tap in for an inconceivable opener.

The home players glanced to the Icelandic assistant referee in search of an offside flag which, correctly, did not materialise.

Georgia had to endure an onslaught of pressure in the second-half, spearheaded by Andres Iniesta, the Barcelona playmaker one of four half-time switches.

The visitors were even forced into playing third-choice goalkeeper Roin Kvaskhvadze for the last 40 minutes after Revishvili suffered a bruising head knock courtesy of Sergio Busquets.

Gerard Pique headed wide, Nolito’s shot whisked by the Georgian post and then Jordi Alba failed to connect with a volley from a few metres as the home side neared a humiliation of their own.

Georgia, often maligned for a shortage of fitness and subsequent concession of late goals, actually improved as the game wore on.

Indeed, when the opportunity allowed, they broke with a swagger in the closing stages, with a nonchalant backheel by substitute Giorgi Chanturia characteristic of a newly found confidence in Weiss’s side.

Despite their 76% possession and 11 corners to Georgia’s 0, Spain could not find a way through as the Georgians held on for an historic victory, the like of which Georgian fans have been waiting for several years.

Spain have less than a week to sort themselves out for their European Championship opener against the Czech Republic. But for Georgia, there is a whole summer to bask in this triumph and to forget what had gone before against Romania and a few others.

The World Cup qualifying campaign starts against Austria in Tbilisi in September and reaching Russia 2018 remains a distant dream. However, this remarkable conquest should at least put a few thousand more on the gate at Dinamo Arena which, the Super Cup, rugby and Robbie Williams aside, has too often been a depressing swathe of empty seats in recent times.

Alastair Watt

08 June 2016 12:20