EURO 2024 Preview: All eyes on Kvaratskhelia as Georgia make their Euros debut

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EURO 2024 Preview: All eyes on Kvaratskhelia as Georgia make their Euros debut

Khvicha Kvaratskhelia is Georgia's big star
Khvicha Kvaratskhelia is Georgia's big starAFP
Qualifying for the European Championships for the first time was a huge achievement in itself for Georgia, but with one of the best wingers in the world in their ranks, they'll be aiming to do more than just make up the numbers in Germany.

Qualifying and draw

Georgia were beaten by Spain, Norway and Scotland in the European Championship qualifiers, but did also claim draws against the Norwegians and Scots and beat Cyprus twice. 

The team then went on to get past Luxembourg and Greece in the playoffs - which they qualified for through their Nations League performance - beating the latter on penalties to secure their spot at this summer's tournament.

They will play in Group F in Germany, going up against Portugal, the Czech Republic and Turkey.

Willy and the Vilis

The biggest star is on the bench for the European Championship debutants.

Long-time Bayern professional Willy Sagnol has been the coach of Georgia's national team since 2021 and is now something of a hero having led the team to their first-ever appearance in the finals.

Willy Sagnol has taken Georgia to a new level
Willy Sagnol has taken Georgia to a new levelProfimedia

Sagnol's name fits in perfectly with the country: Ten players in his European Championship squad have surnames ending in "-vili". In Georgia, this means "child of" and is often used to pass on the father's name.

In the first European Championship match in Georgia's history, the 2006 World Cup runners-up and their "Vilis" will face Turkey in Dortmund on June 18th.

Made in Germany

There is great love for the Bundesliga in Georgia, but despite Sagnol's Bayern Munich past, it is not the record champions that many hearts beat for there.

For years, Freiburg was to a certain extent the first port of call for Georgian professionals in German football.

"SC is definitely even more popular here than Bayern," former Freiburg fan favourite Alexander Iashvili once said.

"Levan Kobiashvili, Levan Zkitishvili and I were among the first to make the move to the Bundesliga after Georgia's independence - and all of them went to SC. That's how many fans came into contact with Freiburg years ago."

With the trio, as well as Giorgi Kiknadze and Sasa Samtaradze, five Georgians played in Freiburg in the 2001/2002 season under coaching icon Volker Finke. Kobiashvili in particular left his mark in Germany with a total of 351 Bundesliga matches for Freiburg, Schalke 04 and Hertha BSC. He played a total of 100 international matches for Georgia and is now president of the national football association.

Key player

With the youngster Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, Sagnol has an international star in his squad.

The 23-year-old winger plays a key role for Italian side Napoli and was one of the best players in their title-winning 2022/23 season, establishing himself as one of the world's most exciting talents. 

This season, however, things did not go well for him with Napoli missing out on a successful title defence by a clear margin. He now seems keen to leave for a bigger club and Liverpool are one of many to have been linked. 

Alongside Budu Zivzivadze from Karlsruher SC and former Hamburg player Giorgi Chakvetadze, he is one of the few well-known names in the national team and the great hope for his team's first European Championship.

Potential starting XI:

Mamardashvili; Kverkvelia, Kashia, Dvali; Kakabadze, Kiteishvili, Kochorashvili, Shengelia, Chakvetadze; Kvaratskhelia, Mikautadze.

Follow Georgia's match with Turkey here.

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