https://www.theguardian.com/football/article/2024/jun/13/euro-2024-team-guides-part-22-georgia

Debutants are unfancied but have a world-class goalkeeper and a generational attacking talent in Khvicha Kvaratskhelia

Georgia fans take to the streets after their penalty shootout victory in the playoffs against Greece in March. Photograph: Giorgi Arjevanidze/AFP/Getty

This article is part of the Guardian’s Euro 2024 Experts’ Network, a cooperation between some of the best media organisations from the 24 countries who qualified. theguardian.com is running previews from two countries each day in the run-up to the tournament kicking off on 14 June.

Prospects

In March the dream of all Georgian fans came true as the team qualified for the European Championship. Some supporters had been waiting for that moment for 34 years. Back in 1989 the struggle was to break free from the shackles of the Soviet Union and a year later Georgia won that battle and, football-wise, had its first national championship. Three years later the country became a member of Fifa and Uefa.

Since then Georgia have taken part in many qualifying campaigns without reaching the finals. The greatest European success of Georgian football was achieved in 1981, before the break-up, when Dinamo Tbilisi beat East German side Carl Zeiss in the final of the Cup Winners’ Cup. Nearly half of the Tbilisi team played for the Soviet Union national team at the time.

Since then came only disappointments until Uefa introduced the Nations League, giving smaller nations a better chance of reaching a major tournament. Georgia took their chance and qualified for Euro 2024 by overcoming Luxembourg and Greece in the playoffs.

Little is expected of this team as debutants but they have one of the best goalkeepers in the world, Giorgi Mamardashvili, as well as an attacking force in Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, so anything is possible. Especially as those two stars are backed up by a group of talented and hard-working players.

The manager, Willy Sagnol, prefers to play 3-5-2 although it can also be described as a 5-3-2 with the wing-backs, likely to be Otar Kakabadze on the right and Giorgi Tsitaishvili, often helping out in defence. “Georgia had never qualified for a competition before, and yet the day after the win over Greece, people were already talking about making the last 16,” Sagnol told fifa.com. “That’s kind of the mindset over here – it’s all or nothing.

“I think it’d be stupid for me to say: ‘We need to win this or that.’ The main idea is to create a good impression of football in Georgia, and if we can get a little extra confidence and gain some more experience, then maybe we can have a more successful qualifying campaign for the 2026 World Cup.”