Duruji Kvareli / Georgia – 2038 Open Thread
December 2037 / January 2038.
After an extremely favorable draw for the Champions League Group Stage, karma gets us on the back end. We draw Derek McInnes’ Liverpool in the First Knockout Round, a rematch of last year’s Europa League final. A chance for revenge. And, as we all know, revenge is the sexy man’s justice.
As you may recall, in mid-2037 the Board agreed to expand Kursha Road. The big question in my mind was how big the expansion would end up being. Well, we have our answer. A 12,937-capacity all-seater, an increase of 4,312.
Of course, in the interim we’ll be playing at the Givi Chokheli in Telavi (named for a 1960 Euros-winning defender, who played primarily for Dinamo Tbilisi), which appears to have a nice, new turf surface even if the stands leave a little something to be desired.
We also have a new affiliate in Slavia Sofia, which may result in Bulgarian youth coming through our Academy.
Of course, my plan is to develop Georgian youth to support the national team. But we’ll take what we can get.
January 2038 – Squad Building.
As noted in the immediate aftermath of my appointment as manager of the Georgian national team, I intend to use Duruji Kvareli to develop and retrain promising Georgian youth. I also tend to be very deliberate in my squad building, prioritizing the signing of youth players.
The reality is that Georgia doesn’t have a deep talent pool. We aren’t Germany or Spain, with dozens of youth prospects to work with. We are going to have to pick and choose.
My plan going forward is to continue with 2 XIs in the first-team squad, with heavy squad rotation — the 1st XI focused on Europe, the 2nd XI responsible for domestic competitions as needed. We’ll start mixing Georgian youth into the 2nd XI, the idea being that as we develop players for the national team they can begin to take over the 2nd XI, with some pushing into the 1st XI.
(Of course, at the end of the 2037 campaign, we had 2 Georgian internationals in the squad, in Vasil Kantaria (a starting centerback) and Irakli Kurashvili (on the bench for the 1st XI, starting in the 2nd XI). There are a number of former Duruji Kvareli players in the Georgian squad — players that I have moved on, for one reason or another, but players who certainly played a role in successful Erovnuli Liga campaigns.
As the biggest fish in the Georgian pond, with a bank account that is bursting at the seams, buying promising Georgian talent is proving much more costly than it was a few years ago. (This is also likely a function of our ever-increasing television revenue, which has sparked the transfer market in Georgia.)
That being said, we’ve signed two players in the winter transfer window, both of whom are Georgian youth internationals with substantial promise. The psychological barrier I had to break through on my end was the cost, breaking the million-dollar barrier. (Prior to this window, the highest transfer fee paid was $675k for Sekou Thiam in 2036).
The first player in the door was Zurab Ghoghoberidze, a $3M signing from Saburtalo, who will play off the bench in our 2nd XI as a mezzala. I considered retraining Ghoghoberidze as a wingback or libero, but he fits the “central winger” profile that I love.
The second signing was Levan Shekiladze, who arrives from Dinamo Batumi for $2.6M. Shekiladze will also play from the bench in our 2nd XI, as a roaming playmaker. He’s much more raw than Ghoghoberidze, but could be a useful player if he develops.
The first leg of the Liverpool tie went about as well as we could expect. We were missing Mamadou Dieng through injury, and Samuel Kitawi had yet to fully recover an injury of his own. The hosts controlled the match and we could not avoid conceding, but held firm for a 1-nil loss.
This was not our finest hour, but I have to feel confident in assessing our chances ahead of a second leg back in Georgia.
We’ve also kicked off the domestic campaign with our 10th straight Super Cup win, and an opening-day 2-nil win over Dila Gori in the Erovnuli Liga.
We’ve bumped our season ticket numbers to 769, up from 568 last year. Ticket prices continue to rise, up to $36 per match or $241 for a season ticket.
Having lost the first leg at Anfield, we knew that we would need to score in the second leg at Kursha Road. And we did, early, through Zurab Ghoghoberidze…only for Liverpool to pull one back shortly thereafter. But we kept fighting, and hit our 2nd. We were denied a 3rd by VAR, only for Dieng to win it in the 75th.
To be fair, Liverpool were relentless in looking for their 2nd goal on the night, which would have sent them through on aggregate. But we did not let them through.
We win, 3-1 on the night, 3-2 on aggregate. Revenge, for our loss last year in the Europa League final. A marker, laid down for all that is to come.
Results elsewhere leave Arsenal and Macnchester City as the last English teams standing. I’d love nothing more than to face one of them in the next round.
More than anything, what I wanted on my Georgia debut was a goal for Goose. It didn’t happen. But we smashed Northern Ireland, 3-1, with a starting XI that featured 10 current or former Duruji Kvareli players.
Domestically, we start 2038 where 2037 left off. Complete and utter domination, including a 4-1 win away to Lokomotivi.
Having the first leg at the Emptyhad only increases the urgency of the moment. Yet, we are caught sleepwalking in the 3rd minute, gifting City a goal that they did not deserve. Fortunately, we wake up. City dominate the match but are unable to create any additional, meaningful chances. We lose 1-nil, but will kick off the second leg knowing that we can progress if we take care of business.
A wide-open match ensues at Kursha Road, as Farjallah’s 27th-minute strike levels the tie. But neither side can find a way through, so it is left to the lottery of penalties. Fortunately, Jonathan Akrofi comes up with two bigs saves to send us through to the semifinals.
In other news, with his brace away to Shukura in late April, Ibrahim Anyamele became the club’s record-holder with 125 league goals, eclipsing Levan “Goose” Akhobadze’s 123. Anyamele has scored 178 goals in all competitions, only 11 behind Goose’s club record of 189.
The last match of the month was the first leg of the Champions League semifinal tie against Arsenal. We played our Nagelsmann-inspired PM Haaienmes tactic, which saw Arsenal enjoy the lion’s share of possession to no purpose whatsoever. For our part, we created numerous chances but left our shooting boots unlaced, with only Samuel Kitawi firing home — an unstoppable, curling 20+ yard beauty. A massive 1-nil win, but I fear that we will regret not being more ruthless in front of goal.
The second leg kicked off, in much the same fashion as the first. Arsenal, possessing the ball miles from our goal, rarely looking to threaten. While we looked dangerous in possession — aggressive and purposeful, in direct contrast to our hosts. But we could not find that vital away goal to tip the balance in our favor.
The pattern held until the 91st, after Arsenal had begun to push forward in a highly-aggressive 3412. Intense, wide-open football.
But we were the ones who capitalized, hitting Arsenal on the break. A captain’s goal from Oumar Toure to send us through to the Champions League final.
We have also qualified for the Club World Cup in 2041, which could prove interesting in terms of fixture congestion.
We will renew our nascent rivalry with Marcelo Gallardo’s Barcelona, who beat Real Sociedad 5-nil (agg.) in the other semifinal.
To call it a rivalry would likely be an overstatement, from Barcelona’s perspective. We’ve played them 10 times since the fall of 2031. While recent matches have been close, and we’ve both won and drawn at the Camp Nou, the overall record is painful to consider. 10 matches, with only 1 win and 1 draw to show for our efforts.
But the past need not dictate our future. We will have 90 minutes at the Nuevo Mestalla to show our mettle.
The build-up to the Champions League final is complete. We’re in tremendous form, and have no significant player selection issues. We haven’t conceded in 13 matches, but the Catalans are a horse of a different color.
May 2038 – Champions League Final.
As expected, the Catalans will enter the match as favorites. That’s not an insult. But we’re taking it as one. After reaching the Europa League final last year and in light of our run in the Champions League this year, we have earned our spot in the final.
While we’ve battled to reach this stage, Gallardo’s Barcelona have waltzed through the knockout rounds.
As if any of that matters now. The next 90 minutes will prove all.
We will start in PM Haaienmes. Barcelona appears to be playing with a balanced mentality.
The first 5 minutes are sheer mayhem. We struggle with Barcelona’s high press, and seem incapable of getting out of our own half. Barcelona even hit the post from an oblique angle after one careless turnover.
But in one magical moment, we break the press and are suddenly off to the races. Who else, other than Ibrahim Anyamele? He rifles a shot from 25 yards, the Catalan keeper flat-footed. A brilliant build-out under pressure, leading to incisive, aggressive attacking movement, finished off by arguably our best player. One-nil.
A mere three minutes later, Aidara catches Quintanilha dithering on the ball, breaking free in search of our second. Guillem parries, however, and Barcelona manage to clear.
A stalemate ensues, as Barcelona possess the ball, broken up by aggressive counterattacks when we recover the ball. That is, until the 28th minutes when Barcelona launch a counterattack of their own, and Juliano Andre finds Rodriguez in space at the back post. 1-1. We have got to do better.
Over the next 10 minutes, we are ascendant. More incisive in possession, coming close twice as Aidara and then Anyamele fire straight at Guillem in the Catalan goal. The tables have turned. Barcelona are now struggling with our press.
And in first-half injury time, our patience is rewarded. Dieng intercepts a mid-range ball from Guillem, laying off to Bajrami, who finds Farjallah hitting the seam at full pace. Our Sudanese legend buries it, 2-1.
Barcelona are shaken. Another interception by Dieng. Another brilliant through ball from Bajrami, behind the Catalan lines. This time, for Aidara who can’t quite finish the chance.
The referee blows for the half. Another goal was coming. It was only a matter of time. Can the Catalans regroup?
The first chance of the second half falls to Barcelona, but Akrofi stands tall to deny Suver.
Minutes later, Anyamele is set free behind the Barcelona line thanks to a brilliant third-man running, pass-and-move buildup, but Guillem is able to get a fingertip to it, deflecting the shot off the woodwork…only for the whistle to blow. Offsides.
Another important save from Akrofi in the 76th, as he comes out to smother a loose ball well wide of the goal. Substitutions are imminent. Westerveld is on for Toudji. Sandli on for Dieng. We demand an incredible amount from our wingbacks; fresh legs will be critical in the dying stages.
In the 82nd, Barcelona appear to find an equalizer as Guegan threads a pass to Rodriguez on the back post, only for VAR to waive it off for offsides. Club captain Oumar Toure will enter the fray for Bajrami — the Kosovan international has had a brilliant night, but Toure is the best player on our bench, and will help steady the backline from his position as a defensive midfielder.
The demand was that Toure steady the ship. And he does. We are resolute. Barcelona do not get another meaningful look at goal.
The fat lady is singing. The match is won.
Duruji Kvareli are the Champions of Europe.
The greatest insult comes the day after the match, however, when the Champions League XI is announced. Noticeably absent are any players from Duruji Kvareli. In our place? 9 players from Manchester City. The side we eliminated in the quarterfinals.
Apparently UEFA aren’t as corrupt as I thought. Or, perhaps the suits at UEFA were simply afraid of retribution at the hands of Mr. Bale, a noted Duruji Kvareli supporter.
Two days after the final, a new Champions League XI was posted which includes 4 Duruji Kvareli players: Jonathan Akrofi, Mamadou Dieng, Erand Ramadani, and Omer Farjallah:
Akrofi also won Goalkeeper of the Season, with Abdoulaye Diallo (the deep-lying forward we play as a libero) as Defender of the Season.
June 2038 – European Review.
A quick glance around the continent, as England’s grip on European competitions has been broken. That, and PSG’s streak in France has been broken.
Thanks to our exploits in the Champions League, the Erovnuli Liga’s reputation has risen to 12th in the competitions rankings. This puts us ahead of the top tiers of the Russian, Greek, Czech, Turkish and Belgian leagues, right behind the likes of Croatia, Switzerland, Ukraine and Scotland.
Duruji Kvareli also rise to 5th in the club coefficients ranking. The only clubs ahead of us are Barcelona, Manchester City, Real Madrid and…Tottenham.
Of course, as important and significant as those updates are, here is the big one.
Georgia has jumped to 6th in the nation club coefficients table, meaning that with the 2039/40 European campaign, Georgia will: (1) gain a third Champions League place; with (2) the top two teams seeded directly into the Group Stage. That means we will have 6 teams in Europe, with the Europa League spot seeded into the Group Stage.
For the first time in several years, our youth intake preview was not depressing. It looks like we might have a top class goalkeeper coming through and an attacking midfielder. That’ll work.
With our automatic seeding into the Champions League Group Stage as the defending champions, we did not have to navigate the qualifying process this year. We still had a busy 5-week period, but nothing like how things have been in the past.
In my efforts to revamp the squad to include more Georgian youth prospects, I ended up negotiating a significant transfer fee for Mamadou Aidara. He’s a brilliant player. But Sekou Thiam can take over for him in the 1st XI. Only for Aidara to reject their contract offer and throw a fit about how I was trying to force him out of the club. Awkward.
Watford have been doing well, and will play in the Europa League next year. I figured their contract offer would far exceed the $16k/week he’s currently on. And it isn’t just Watford. When Bayern and Marseille come in for him, I’m advised that Aidara “expects the offers to be rejected, as promised.”
Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad we’re at that point in a save where players want to stay at Duruji Kvareli, despite the bright lights and temptations of the French Mediterranean coast, Bavaria and…Watford. (He later “expected” that we would reject offers from PSG, Dortmund and Schalke.) It is not the worst problem we could have.
South Africa 2038 – World Cup Review.
With the World Cup back in South Africa, Miguel Angel Tena’s Spain prove that history repeats itself by claiming the title with a 1-nil win over Danilo’s Brazil.
Solid showings from Adrian Gula’s Mexico, Vinny Perth’s Ireland, and Juan Manuel Azconzabal’s Chile, as well.
The highlight of early August was a trip to Copenhagen for the Super Cup against Gerardo Seoane’s Real Madrid. It was a brilliant match, even though we gave up an early goal thanks to a nasty deflection. I didn’t particularly appreciate 30 minutes of extra time, but we’re pleased to bring another trophy back to Kvareli.
We also enter the Group Stage draw as an automatic first seed (our coefficient would finally have qualified us as a second seed this year). The draw itself is favorable, to say the absolute least — we will face Pepijn Linders’ Hoffenheim, Olympiacos and Heerenveen.
As the domestic campaign rolls on, we sit 25 points clear of Lokomotivi after 26 matches, with a goal difference of +102 (108 for, 6 against). Oumar Toure has also become the club’s all-time leader in league appearances, eclipsing Vasile State.
The big question in my mind, however, is whether Dila Gori can secure a top-3 finish (and thus claim the final Champions League spot for 2039/40). They’ve seemed like the most likely team to rise up and challenge Lokomotivi, who currently look good value to claim a second place finish in the Erovnuli Liga, which comes with automatic seeding into the Group Stage for 2039/40.
Our first competitive match with Georgia is in the Nations League B, against Ivaylo Petev’s Poland in Tbilisi. I’m not exactly sure how this works, but I think that Poland is officially a Georgian colony, after a 5-nil stonking. (Between you and me, I cheered when Goose scored.)
The lads then went to Bulgaria to face Hristo Zlatinski’s men, walking away with a 2-1 win thanks to Goose’s predatory instincts in pouncing on a loose ball in the 61th-minute.
The man is a legend.
The youth intake has arrived. As expected, we have a solid prospect in goal — Aliko Dolidze, but only time will tell if he can develop as expected. The only other prospects worth considering are: (1) Luka Abashidze, about whom I have serious doubts; and (2) Giorgi Beriashvili, who may not have room to develop.
They may not look like much, but if 2 of these 3 can join the stable of young, Georgian players I’m trying to gather, we will be well on the way to developing the future of the Georgian national team.
We secure our 10th straight Erovnuli Liga title with a 5-nil win over Lokomotivi, kicking off a straightforward month where the only stumble was away to Heerenveen in the Champions League.
For a few minutes, it looked like the Legend of Goose was about to grow even more, after he found what looked to be an 88th-minute winner against Israel. Only for us to concede in the 93rd minute, to draw in Tbilisi. Not acceptable.
A lackluster performance against Bulgaria several days later was cause for concern, until Dila Gori’s Lasha Gegia (a Duruji Kvareli transfer target) found a 94th-minute equalizer. Relief.
We should have won the first match. We should have lost the second. Neither performance was up to our standards.
While we still sit atop the table in our Nations League B group, let’s be clear about one thing. We would get annihilated in the top tier of the Nations League. We don’t need that. More to the point, the FA only expected us to “bravely fight against relegation,” so if we don’t manage to win the Group I won’t be upset.
The steamroller that Duruji Kvareli has become rolls on, as we romp through the domestic calendar in October. With 4 matches to play, we’ve already broken our own record for goals scored, with 128 in the Erovnuli Liga alone.
Players are starting to get a bit over the top with demands for new contracts, including some who are seeking six-figure weekly salaries. This is Georgia, fellas. Not happening. Oh, and let’s not forget that that you’ve got 3 years left on that contract.
Regardless, watch this space. We’ll kick of 2039 with a full-blown squad review, including assessment of the Georgian prospects that are on their way.
We kick off the international fixtures with a chance to win our Nations League B group outright, and promote to the top tier.
First up, a trip to Poland. Honestly, it could not have gone any better, as Irakli Kurashvili put us up 1-nil within the first 18 seconds. We may have celebrated a little early, however. Poland proceed to bury 3 goals, while we fluff our chances. We lose, 3-1, as Poland draw level on points.
Properly humbled, we travel to Haifa knowing that a win will still give us the title. We are dominant and walk away with a 3-nil victory, claiming the Group title and promotion to the Nations League A.
We’ve also secured a favorable draw for the Euro qualifiers, as our performance in the Nations League means that we’re a 2nd seed. While Norway were a difficult draw out of Pot 3, Scotland is about as favorable a draw from Pot 1 as we could have hoped for. In the end, we will face Scotland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
I’m not expecting to win the Group, but if we can finish 2nd we will stand a good chance of qualifying.
While qualification for the Champions League knockout rounds was already secured, a draw against ze Germans means that we need a win on Matchday 6 to ensure that we will be seeded. We are rampant, and race out to a 4-nil lead at halftime. Accordingly, I decide to bring Dolidze on for his debut at the hour mark — the youngster was on the bench as Akrofi is injured. We cruise to a 6-nil win, ending the 2038 campaign on a high note.
December 2038 – Season Review.
Our first full year managing both Duruji Kvareli and Georgia has been an unqualified success.
The Crusaders won their Nations League B Group, and look good value to challenge for Euros qualification next year.
Duruji Kvareli have won 11 straight Erovnuli Liga titles, and are unbeaten in 141 matches (a run stretching back to March 2035). In the league this year, we won 36 from 36, scoring a record 142 goals, with a record goal difference of +134. We’ve won 8 straight Davit Kipiani Cups. Not to mention the 2038 Champions League and Super Cup, a European double.
The goal now is to walk and chew gum at the same time. Continue raising the profile of Duruji Kvareli and the Ervonuli Liga, while also building up the Georgian national team. As noted above, we’ll take a close look at the Duruji Kvareli squad early in 2039.
God leaned over to the Devil, drew him close and declared, “those who will drink three glasses of chacha may be on my side. After that, they are yours.”
If you’ve stumbled upon this post and are finding yourself a bit confused, the basic concept behind the Fourth Glass save is explained here. Just need to catch up? Each installment in Giorgi Amirani’s attempt to take over the football world, starting from the Georgian Regional Leagues, can be accessed through the Fourth Glass Archive.