Duruji Kvareli / Georgia – 2041 Open Thread
December 2040 / January 2041 – Odds & Ends; Transfer News.
The off-season begins with the World Cup qualifying and Champions League draws.
Excellent news for the Crusaders, as we are among the second seeds and draw Serbia, Romania, Belarus, Estonia and Andorra. Qualification is by no means assured, but I’m optimistic.
In the Champions League, we draw Philippe Clement’s Borussia Dortmund while Lokomotivi will face David Nielsen’s Milan.
We’ve also gone through a squad reshuffling, having signed two Georgian prospects to join the 2nd XI. Lasha Nozadze ($1.8M, Gldani) is a defensive-minded midfielder, who will retrain as a centerback since we do not utilize ball-winning/hard-tackling midfielders. Shio Kometiani ($1.1M, Meshakhte) will be retrained as a shadow striker.
It’s the end of an era for club captain Toure, after 11 years with the club. Aidara had just been demoted to the 2nd XI (in favor of Sekou Thiam).
This leaves us with a 25-man squad for the 2041 campaign, 14 of whom are Georgian nationals. (Three years ago, we had only 4 Georgian nationals in the squad, having finished the 2037 campaign with two, and signing two more in January 2038.)
As anticipated in the 2040 season review, it didn’t take long for another achievement to be completed. Sekou Thiam scored his 50th and 51st international goals in a 3-1 win over Kenya at the African Cup of Nations. (Note: for reasons likely related to the Georgian league file, the Cup of Nations has been played in January-February throughout the save, instead of in June-July. No harm, no foul.)
The first leg of the Champions League tie against Dortmund sees ze Germans being aggressive. Fair play. But they clearly didn’t get the memo.
We hit the post three times and claim a vital 1-nil win, which means they will need to chase the tie back at Kursha Road. Which is exactly what we want them to do.
On the eve of the second leg against Dortmund, the press are outraged that we’re selected 11 Duruji Kvareli players for our forthcoming World Cup qualifiers. As if we haven’t gone unbeaten domestically for 6 years, having made a concerted effort to sign and develop the most promising Georgian youth over the last 3 years.
Ignoring the idiocy of the pundits, we put ze Germans to the sword. 1-nil on the night, 2-nil on aggregate. There will be no rematch against Gerardo Seoane’s Real Madrid, however, as they are eliminated by Frank de Boer’s Spurs.
Instead, we draw Jon Dahl Tomasson’s Schalke. That’s right, it’s time to stomp the Smurfs, with hopes that our youthful 2nd XI continue to take care of business.
But before we can focus on ze new Germans, we have our first World Cup qualifiers to play, away to Romania an then against Serbia in Tbilisi. Arguably our biggest competition for qualification. A chance to steal a march. We start slowly in Bucharest, but come from behind to win, 2-1. Against Serbia, we are less than ruthless in front of goal, but 3 points are 3 points. The best possible start.
Ze new Germans did not prove to be much of an obstacle, as we eliminated them on the back of consecutive 1-nil wins in Gelsenkirchen and at Kursha Road. The outcome was never in doubt even though we were poor in front of goal.
The 2nd XI continues to carry the burden domestically. As we head into the first leg against Spurs, we’re unbeaten in 59 matches across all competitions, a run dating back to April 2040. In the Erovnuli Liga, our unbeaten run has stretched to 224 matches, dating back to March 2035.
We’re poor in the first leg at Kursha Road, and have a goal called back in the 76th for offsides. We didn’t deserve the win. A scoreless draw is not an unfair result.
Back in the Big Smoke, we had our work cut our for us after an early goal from Spurs. But Abdoulaye Diallo headed home a captain’s goal in the 14th minute, giving us the advantage on away goals. Spurs continued to dominate possession, with nothing to show for it. When Diallo rose above the crowd again in the 38th to head home from close range, our supporters could begin to dream again. 2-1. Spurs drew level in the 81st minute, with Mytidis pouncing on a loose ball in the box. And as Spurs pushed for the winner, we struck late through Anyamele. 3-2.
The final whistle blows. Book our tickets to Amsterdam, because we’re through to the final.
A straightforward month as we prepare for the Champions League final, with the 2nd XI securing an away draw to Lokomotivi in our last match before we leave for Amsterdam.
June 2041 – Champions League Final.
This marks our fourth appearance in a European cup final, and for the first time we are favored.
We will be playing PM Haaienmes, while Barcelona are in a standard, balanced 4231. We’re ready.
As anticipated, Barcelona dominate possession in the early stages. Both sides are creating chances. Akrofi and Guillem start strong, each making a handful of solid saves to deny the opposition.
Guillem, in particular, twice denies Duruji Kvareli in the first 30 minutes. If we were more clinical, we could be up 2-nil.
Neither side find a way through, as the halftime whistle blows. The second 45 looms large.
Barcelona has yet to touch the ball in the second half when Anyamele is played through by Thiam, only for Guillem to deny him once again. Both sides have had their chances, but there is a difference between quantity and quality. Guillem is the only reason the Catalans are still in this match.
Ghoghoberidze is introduced on the hour, replacing the ineffective Farjallah. It hasn’t been his night.
10 minutes later, Kurashvili replaces Anyamele. Another player who has been unable to find his sea legs.
In the 82nd minute, Gegia replaces the tiring Kitawi. It looks like extra time. Fresh legs in the midfield could be critical.
Minutes later, Akrofi stretches to save from Szulc. He can’t hold it, and the ball falls to Johnson, unmarked on the back post, who buries it from an oblique angle.
We increase the intensity and press forward but cannot find a way through. The final whistle blows. A bitter pill to swallow. We had our chances but did not take them. We have no one to blame but ourselves.
June 2041 – World Cup Qualifying & European Review.
Before the Crusaders take the field in the next round of qualifiers, let’s briefly look at results from around the Continent. As if we care.
Luckily for Serena, we have the palate cleanser that is the Georgian World Cup qualifying campaign. Our perfect start continued with a narrow (yet deserved) 2-1 win away to Belarus, followed by a comprehensive 4-nil win over Estonia in Tbilisi. Romania and Serbia drew on Matchday 4, whch puts us in the driver’s seat. It’s still early doors, though.
I hear you, Serena. You want something…sweeter. Don’t worry.
Mark your calendars, folks — June 2041. A little more than 19 years after this journey began, Duruji Kvareli are now the top-ranked club in Europe, climbing over Barcelona and Manchester City.
We also will not need to wait long for a chance to avenge our loss to the Catalans. We’ve drawn Gallardo’s Barcelona and Flamengo in the Club World Cup, which commences in a few days’ time.
Our youth intake preview is decidedly poor, although we may have one fullback an another goalkeeper in the pipeline.
June/July 2041 – Club World Cup.
I, for one, was more than happy to spend a month in Norway, and have an opportunity to avenge our loss in the Champions League final.
Our 2nd XI was delegated the responsibility for taking on Flamengo in our first match, and they did not disappoint in a solid 2-nil win. Barcelona were without their manager, as Gallardo left for Tottenham. Nevertheless, that can’t be the excuse as we waltzed to a comfortable 2-1 win.
We drew Ulsan in the quarterfinals, and tasked the 2nd XI with dispatching them in order to keep our legs fresh. They did not disappoint, running away with a comprehensive 4-nil win.
In the semifinals, we faced Gallardo’s Tottenham, the side we eliminated in the Champions League semifinals just a few short weeks back. Spurs dominated possession and controlled the match, but had few meaningful looks at goal. In the end, a brilliant counterattack in the 93rd minute sent us through to the final with a narrow 1-nil win.
Which meant we would face Cristiano Ronaldo’s Manchester United in the final. We took an early 2-nil lead, but Ronaldo’s men refused to give up. An epic match ensued, which they eventually won, 4-3, after extra time.
I’m disappointed, but can’t argue with the result. It was a brilliant match that could have gone either way.
A manic nine-week period full of fixtures, as we make up for time lost during the Club World Cup.
We took out our frustrations at losing to Cristiano Ronaldo’s Manchester United in style — 12 wins from 12 matches. 39 goals for, 3 against.
We sit 9 points clear of Lokomotivi who are having an epic season — setting aside their 2 losses and a draw against us, they’ve won 23 of 24. They may struggle in the run-in, however, after they sold Dima Ghoghoberidze to Jean-Ricner Bellegarde’s Leicester for a mere $8.75M.
We entered the Champions League Group Stage draw as a second seed, and will face Sebastien Desabre’s Milan, Thierry Henry’s Hoffenheim and AA Gent.
And, in case you missed it, be sure to check out the Saga of Lee Cattermole’s Dundalk FC, who had an epic Champions League qualifying campaign.
September 2041 – World Cup Qualifying.
The Crusaders keep inching closer and closer to their first-ever World Cup appearance.
Andorra were no match for a heavily-rotated XI, as we ran away with a 6-nil win. However, our 1st XI could not put Romania to the sword. We have nothing to show for our dominance except for a scoreless draw. Fortunately, Serbia drew in Belarus, so we are still 5 points clear with 4 matches to play.
With his appearance against Andorra, Vasil Kantaria became the most capped player ever to play for Georgia, with 108 (109, after the Romania match). Kantaria is of an age where I suspect he might retire after the World Cup, so we need to get him as many games as possible.
We’re rolling, with both Duruji Kvareli and the Crusaders.
On the club side of the shop, we began the Champions League Group Stage with a 3-nil win over ze Germans at Kursha Road, following by a 3-nil win away to AA Gent. Lokomotivi continue to maintain the pace in Georgia, but they’re still 9 points back with only 5 matches to play. It’s over, lads. Accept it.
In early October, Georgia faced a challenging trip to Belgrade. A chance to all-but secure qualification for the World Cup. We did not disappoint, with a 2-1 win, fueled by a Zurab Ghoghoberidze brace. But we could not celebrate at the Itchy Kitty (at least, the players couldn’t…), because we had a potential “banana skin” match on the books back in Tbilisi, against Belarus. We rose to the moment, however, firing home 3 goals in a 4-minute span in the first half to claim a 4-nil win which places us on the brink of qualification.
We sit 5 points clear of Romania with 2 matches to play — away to Estonia, and then away to Andorra. A result in either match, and we’re guaranteed to qualify for England 2042. It would be the first World Cup ever for Georgia. It’s all happening in Tbilisi, folks.
November 2041 – World Cup Qualifying.
5 points clear of Romania, it all boils down to this on Matchday 9. We will qualify with: (1) a win or draw in Estonia; and/or (2) if Romania fail to beat Serbia.
We leave nothing to chance. We dominate, even if we leave it late and also gift Estonia an equalizer. We win, 3-1, setting off wild celebrations as the Crusaders qualify for their first World Cup.
We conclude the qualifying campaign unbeaten, with a 6-nil win over Andorra away.
Duruji Kvareli’s 2041 campaign ended the way it began — winning.
We only lost 2 matches in all competitions this season — the Champions League final against Marcelo Gallardo’s Barcelona, and the Club World Cup final against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Manchester United. Domestically, most clubs stack players behind the ball and pray for a miracle. While things get dicey at times, we’ve continued to pull through.
(It has been a busy day here at FtCS headquarters, which means I forgot to take screenshots of the last 2 Champions League matches.)
What I’m most excited about, though, is the World Cup draw. Who will the Crusaders face at England 2042?
This is a tremendous draw. 16th-ranked Uruguay are no pushover, but unless we fall on our faces against Iraq (ranked 76th), we look good value to qualify for the knockout rounds. 2042 is going to be a big, big year.
December 2041 – Season Review.
Two losses all season.
I’m still bitter about both matches. However, I cannot help but be excited about the Georgian national team, which has progressed wonderfully during my 4 years in charge. I will readily concede that our relatively straightforward qualifying Group this year contributes to that feeling of progress. Based on our performance at the 2040 Euros and in the 2040 Nations League however, I don’t think that progress is illusory.
The rankings are far from perfect. But we’ve risen from 77th to 41st and continue to punch above our weight. There’s no fantasy in my mind, where we make a run at the World Cup. My target is the Third Round.
In terms of making a run, my sights are more firmly fixed on the 2046 World Cup, at which point we will have a broader, more experienced pool of players to choose from.
With the wealth that has been steadily trickling in to the Erovnuli Liga, Georgian clubs are investing in both their facilities and the transfer market. Better players are cropping up at various clubs. I will continue to do what I can to sign the most promising youth, of course.
Goals for 2042: Make a run in the 2041/42 Champions League knockout rounds. Reach the Third Round at the 2042 World Cup.
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.