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Saturday 25 November 2017

Injury-hit Georgia have 'fire in their eyes' for first Ireland win to end bad run of losses

Georgia’s Nika Kvekveskiri is pictured in action against Germany’s Mesut Ozil during a Euro 2016 qualifier back in 2015
Georgia’s Nika Kvekveskiri is pictured in action against Germany’s Mesut Ozil during a Euro 2016 qualifier back in 2015

Out of contention but not out of hope or passion, the Georgian camp are adamant that tomorrow's World Cup tie with Ireland here in Tbilisi is the time for them to end their truly miserable run against the Irish.

The nations have clashed eight times in the last 14 years, eight defeats for Georgia, a record they are not at all proud of. A team who beat Spain in a pre-Euro 2016 friendly, a side who beat Scotland and others, have been spanked time and again by the boys in green.

And it hurts. "It's crazy that we have this bad record against Ireland. We don't have that against Spain or France or anyone else, just Ireland. We need to end that run and this group of players has to do all we can to finish it, we are ready," Georgian midfielder Nika Kvekveskiri told The Herald in Tbilisi last night.

"It's about our pride. We have been playing against Ireland for a long time, eight games and eight losses so we need to change that, we want to finish off that bad record and we want this team of 2017 to be the first team from Georgia to take points off Ireland.

"We are at home so we want to show our best side to our people, they need this win. We are a young team, we lack experience but we need to believe in our powers and out abilities."

The run started back in 2003, when Ireland won - narrowly - in Tbilisi and the Irish curse carried on to a very unimpressive 1-0 win for Ireland in Dublin last year though most of those Irish victories have been by a one-goal margin, Ireland getting out of jail.

What harms the Georgian cause ahead of tomorrow's game is that, even when they had world-class players like Kakha Kaladze in their side, they could not get the better of Ireland.

Georgia face Ireland missing four of their key players through suspension or injury, with a squad drawn mainly from obscure clubs in the eastern bloc.

Goalkeeper Giorgi Loria is a big loss as his replacement is George Makaridze, a keeper currently without regular football as he's in dispute with his club in Portugal while the suspended Jaba Kankava and injured Tornike Okriashvili will also be missed as lesser players need to step up.

Georgia also have the problem of throwing away a lead and not seeing a game out to the final whistle.

Midfielder Kvekveskiri, who plays his club football in Kazakhstan, is aware of both charges.

"Before we had so many players at top clubs in the top leagues and we don't have that now. But we have young guys who want to play and do well, for the national team and for their own careers. Our hearts are beating for Georgia. We want to show that we can play our football, and it's time to give something back to the Georgian people," he says.

"We are also missing players, important players for us, but we can play to the end for the Georgian people, we want to do it for them.

"I have seen it in the guys' eyes in training this week, they have fire in their eyes and they want to win this game, so we can battle to the 90th minute and we will be ok if we show our best side. We need to work to 110% but that could do it for us."

They just don't know how many people will be there to see this historic win, if they can manage it.

"I think the crowd will come," he says. "It's a Georgian mentality, to buy a ticket on the last day or at the last minute but they will come. The people who are there will be the people who believe in us, it's not important if we have 10,000 or 50,000, what's important is that the people who are there believe in us."

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