Tuesday 6 December 2016

Georgia go for youth over experience

Vladimir Weiss. Pic: Sportsfile
Vladimir Weiss. Pic: Sportsfile

If they get a chance for a quiet chat, however unlikely that is, the rival managers for tomorrow's World Cup qualifier between Ireland and Georgia can bemoan the lack of goalscorers at their disposal.

Georgia's Slovakian-born coach Vladimir Weiss is entitled to have a moan: his key striker Levan Mchedlidze, who is based in Italy with Empoli, has scored just twice for the national team, while classy midfielder Tornike Okriashvili is the squad's leading scorer with only seven goals.

But it's the lack of experience as much as their struggles to score which hampers the visitors to Dublin this week. More than half of the squad are still in single figures when it comes to caps, and with 11 players in that panel aged 23 or under, it's a worry.

But they are banking on youth helping them get past Ireland in Dublin tomorrow. "It's good for us that young players have come into the squad as they bring something extra," says veteran defender Guram Kashia, who has played against Ireland three times for the national side and has finished on the losing side each time.

"The only way you can get experience is by playing, we have young players who lack that experience but we hope they can learn."

With such a disparate squad - their panel for this game play for clubs in 14 different countries - it made sense for Georgia to meet up here, in Dublin, instead of assembling in far-off Tbilisi and then face into a long flight to Ireland, so they have been training at Malahide since they landed here on Monday.

Georgia's players are entitled to be sick of the sight of that green jersey, with seven defeats in seven meetings since the first clash in 2003. "We have played against them a few times before and we have always lost but I hope that can change," says Kashia, a regular in the Dutch top flight for Vitesse Arnhem.

"If we play against Ireland as well as we played in the first half of our game with Austria last month, I think we will have a chance.

Ireland have a good side, they are strong in the air and we all have to win our battles but we will try."

While Georgia's record against Ireland is poor, their boss has enjoyed his tussles, with two draws in two games for Vladimir Weiss in his time as manager of his native Slovakia against Ireland.

Georgia train at the Lansdowne Stadium this evening.

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