Gia Janashvili: The History of the Georgian National Football Team

by M.L

Georgia are still one of the youngest national sides recognised by FIFA, as they have only been playing international fixtures since 1990. However, the first game that the national side played was while they were still part of the Soviet Union. They are yet to actually make it through to a major tournament, but there is hope that the national team of Georgia could soon end that wait as the qualifiers for EURO 2024 get underway after the World Cup in Qatar.

Early History Of National Side

The Georgian national side played their first fixture in 1990 when they came up against Lithuania. The fixture was an unofficial international match, as Georgia weren’t members of FIFA or UEFA. That first match was seen as a huge success, as Georgia played out an entertaining 2-2 draw against Lithuania in Tbilisi. It was a historically important fixture, as it was the only match that was played prior to their independence. However, they did play against Moldova before becoming members of the world and European governing bodies.

The nation became members of both FIFA and UEFA in 1992, which enabled the national side to begin playing competitive fixtures. Their first competitive fixture came in 1992 against Moldova in a qualifier for the European Championships in 1996. However, they were beaten 1-0, before then finishing third in their respective group. That was a strong first performance in a testing qualification campaign, as they finished ahead of Wales and Moldova, but finished seven points behind Bulgaria, who finished second.

World Cup & EURO Qualification Attempts

After their strong performances in their maiden qualification campaign, Georgia looked to reach the World Cup in 1998. However, they once again failed to reach the main competition in France, as they picked up just ten points and finished fourth. However, they still finished level on points with Poland. That performance saw them reach a high FIFA world ranking of 42nd.

The decline of Georgian football began in qualification for EURO 2000. The national side finished bottom of their respective group, as they won just once and picked up two draws. That poor run would continue into their EURO 2004 qualification campaign, as they finished last in their group. However, they did pick up their first huge win in a competitive fixture during that campaign as they beat Russia 1-0.

Qualification has been made harder in recent decades, and Georgia has continued to struggle. They finished second bottom in their qualification campaign for the 2006 World Cup, before finishing sixth out of seven teams in the EURO 2008 qualification campaign. However, they were able to pick up some big wins during that campaign, as they beat Scotland 2-0 in Georgia, and hammered the Faroe Island 6-0 away from home.

Recent Performances In Competitions

Hector Cuper was tasked with trying to get Georgia closer to reaching a tournament in 2008, but was fired after failing to win a game in the qualification round for the 2010 World Cup. In that campaign, they picked up just three points, and the manager was subsequently replaced by Temur Ketsbaia. However, he also quit soon after the campaign for qualification to EURO 2016 got underway following a 4-0 defeat against Poland.

The biggest result in the history of the national side came in June 2016, as Georgia shocked the world by beating reigning European champions Spain 1-0 before the start of their defence of the title. That result has seemingly brought about new hope.

The inaugural Nations League was a success for Georgia, as they became the first national side to achieve promotion. As well as that, they scored the first goal in the competition against Kazakhstan. Wins against Latvia and Andorra sent Georgia through to the next round of qualification for EURO 2020. However, their good run of form would come to an end, as they only managed to beat Gibraltar.

Still, because of their excellent record in the Nations League, Georgia had an opportunity to reach the major tournament through a playoff. They claimed a massive win to raise hopes of reaching EURO 2020 against Belarus, before hearts were broken in the final of the playoffs against North Macedonia.

Despite this heartbreak, the national team looks to be on the rise again, and that was evident in World Cup qualification as Georgia beat Sweden 2-0. Sustaining that improvement will be essential to their hopes of one day reaching a World Cup or European Championships.

About the Author: Gia Janashvili

Gia Janashvili is a freelance writer from Tbilisi, Georgia. With a vast knowledge of Georgian history, politics, culture and sports, Gia Janashvili writes for various international publishers.