Duruji Kvareli / Georgia – 2042 Open Thread
December 2041 / January 2042 – Odds & Ends.
As we look ahead to what promises to be a massive campaign, due to the World Cup, the first bit of news that rolls is in the Champions League qualifying draw.
For the third time in four years, we will face Philippe Clement’s Borussia Dortmund in the First Knockout Round. Of course, we eliminated them in the 2038/39 and 2040/41 campaigns without breaking a sweat, so this appears to be a very favorable draw.
The other big news on New Year’s Eve? Saba Kapanadze has been named the European Golden Boy after a brilliant year saw him: (1) emerge as the starting libero for Georgia; and (2) take over as the libero in our 2nd XI, in place of Gia Sukhiashvili.
I’m generally quite satisfied with the squad, so resisted the temptation to sign new players and instead focused on contract renewals. That being said, there are several 2041 youth academy graduates at other clubs that I may look to sign during the summer transfer window.
I did reshuffle the XIs slightly, with Margus Oper promoted to the 1st XI, and long-serving Vasil Kantaria dropping to the 2nd XI as he approaches the last years of his career. Kantaria will enjoy a testimonial in February; he is more than capable of playing a role in our squad going forward, but his days are numbered.
Television rights rise to $5.94M for 2042 — a far cry from the $200k we received in 2026, our first year in the Erovnuli Liga. We’ve come a long ways — the Erovnuli Liga currently sits 7th in the reputation table; in 2020, it was 107th in the table, rising to 94th by 2024.
Our first competitive match of the year is at Signal Iduna Park. Ze Germans are looking for revenge, after we eliminated them at this stage in 2038/39 and 2040/41.
Diallo opens our account in the 22nd minute, with a beautiful finish off a long throw in from Dieng. Anyamele smashes a penalty in the 50th to give us a 2-nil lead. Dortmund pull one back when Tatu Furuholm pounces on a loose ball inside the 6…I can almost forgive him the goal, for having such a ridiculously amazing name.
In the end, we can’t find a third but refuse to give ze Germans another meaningful look at goal. We win, 2-1, to continue our dominance of Dortmund and set ourselves up for the 2nd leg.
The domestic campaign begins with a 7-1 curbstomping of Torpedo Kutaisi, our 14th straight Super Cup win.
For the third time in four years, Dortmund are eliminated in the First Knockout Round at our hands. The second leg was a straightforward 2-nil win, yet another match in which ze Germans failed to trouble us.
There were few surprises in the First Knockout Round, and I’m pleased to see that Real Sociedad continue to rise under the guidance of Sir Pep the Bald, First of His Name, captained by Gary Neville’s favorite player, David Dulce, even if their form in La Liga seems to be off this year.
And, of course, karma strikes within moments of my juvenile mocking of Sir Pep. We’ll face the Basques in the quarterfinals.
With our first World Cup just months away, the Crusaders hosted 11th-ranked Ireland and 44th-ranked Peru in Tiblisi.
The first match was an exercise in frustration, as the Irish claimed a late winner in what was an otherwise dreary match. While the visitors may be highly ranked (for whatever that is worth), a 1-nil loss at home is unacceptable.
Against Peru, Vasil Kantaria claims a captain’s goal to seal a 1-nil win while Saba Kapanadze puts in a man-of-the-match performance at libero. But it wasnt’ good enough. We need to put our chances away if we’re going to have any chance of making our mark in England.
Disaster in the first leg against Guardiola’s Real Sociedad at Kursha Road.
David Dulce claims a goal against the run of play in first half injury time, before we are reduced to 10-men after a harsh, straight red card for Westerveld. Sociedad take the bull by the horns and secure a second goal to claim a vital 2-nil victory.
We have no one but ourselves to blame. We had our chances, and did not take them. We will have it all to do in San Sebastian.
We take the rare step of appealing Westerveld’s ban, something I almost never do. The appeal is denied; his one-match ban, upheld.
Young Beka Kiknadze will deputize in Westerveld‘s absence at the Anoeta. We’ve dug ourselves a deep hole. The danger being that we will need to chase the tie away from home, against a squad built to maintain possession.
Given FM20’s penchant for teams maintaining possession far from goal, with defenders racking up possession statistics that would make Xavi horny, I decide to take a risk. We will deploy a tactical tweak I’ve tinkered with, but never truly employed — pushing the shadow strikers higher, into the striker strata as pressing forwards, to try and disrupt Sociedad’s possession.
In what little testing I’ve done, this tweak has proven successful in disrupting the endless cycling of possession between an opponent’s defenders by increasing the intensity of our press, with the obvious knock-on effect of opening up the game. It doesn’t necessarily change their possession statistics in and of themselves, but it is less reactive. It forces an opponent’s hand.
It creates risk. For both sides.
It remains faithful to Nagelsmann’s sharkmouth principles (as we’ve defined them), even if we are no longer strikerless. (Putting aside the labels affixed to roles/duties, this setup is arguably more faithful that our strikerless interpretations, in that the pressing forwards are higher up the pitch when we recover possession, allowing for more immediate verticality in transition.)
To be clear, I do not think this is necessarily more effective than PM Haaienmes, our most recent interpretation of Nagelsmann’s principles. It is simply more focused on disrupting an opponent’s rhythm in possession, which I think will be vital in the second leg.
It’s a calculated risk. One I feel we need to take. Because we didn’t just shoot ourselves in the foot in the first leg. We shot ourselves in one foot, then stepped on a Lego with the other.
At the Anoeta, we draw first blood in the 40th minute through Anyamele, but it is called back for offsides. At the half, we’ve created the chances we need to create. We simply need to finish.
Our gambit has also forced Sociedad out of their half when in possession, the problem being that (like any Guardiola side) they’re skilled enough to maintain possession while pushing forward, even if they still cannot break through our defensive block.
In the second half, the pattern continues. Sociedad are prevented from wasting time, sitting deep and cycling possession between their defenders. We also create, but do not take our chances — most notably with our forwards being set free behind the Basque line in transition, only to be denied by Garmienda.
The match finishes a scoreless draw. We are eliminated.
The tactical gambit “worked” in a theoretical sense (as it has when tested on my tactics testing save), even if it did not see us through to the next round.
We were solid defensively, denying Sociedad any sniff at our goal while creating the chances we need to win the match. And, Sociedad were not able to maintain possession, deep in their half. The problem? They were good enough to maintain possession higher up the pitch throughout the match, under heavy pressure. We also didn’t take our chances.
Whether we’ll see this version of the tactics again remains to be seen. I first began tinkering with it due to the fact that Georgian sides refuse to play us straight-up anymore, and simply sit back hoping to catch us on the counter. It might be worth further testing and refinement.
The frustration at our elimination continues, which means I’ve continued working on the tactic, playing each match to tweak and adjust. We’ve taken out our frustrations on our domestic opponents, taking a 13-point lead into the summer break. We’ve won 17 of 18, with a goal difference of +60 (61 goals for, only 1 conceded); we’re unbeaten in 267 Erovnuli Liga matches, a streak dating back more than 7 years.
While much of our focus has been on the forthcoming World Cup, the draw was held for the Nations League this fall, which will pit us against Hannes Wolf’s Croatia, Moussa Sissoko’s France and Vinny Perth’s Ireland.
But before we can turn our focus to Georgia and the Crusaders’ final World Cup preparations, we need to take a quick look around Europe, to see what has happened in the active leagues and competitions. (Spoiler: Marcelo Gallardo’s Tottenham won ol’ Big Ears.)
England 2042 – Georgia Squad Review; World Cup Preview.
20 years after this journey began with Duruji Kvareli in the Georgian 5th tier, we reach our first World Cup. While this is an indication of how far we’ve come, I know all too well just how far we still have to go, to reach our goals.
The 23-man squad is as strong as I’ve seen it. 18 of these players have worn the Duruji Kvareli shirt at one point or another in their careers. But we still have work to do. Reaching the World Cup in 2042 is an accomplishment in and of itself. More will be expected in 2046 and beyond.
Our primary tactic will be the work-in-progress version of PM Haaienmes with strikers which made its debut away to Sociedad, as discussed above. We’re still tweaking and revising, but I like the results thus far with both club and country.
Our pre-tournament friendlies went well — a 3-nil win over Nil Kilkenny’s Australia (ranked 33rd), followed by a hard-fought 2-nil win over Caleb Porter’s United States (ranked 27th). We’re as ready as we can be.
We are in Group D, and will face Uruguay and Iraq. My hope is to get a result against Uruguay at King Power Stadium in our first match, so that we can rotate the squad against Iraq and keep the 1st XI fresh for the knockout rounds. But now we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Our starting goalkeeper is Duruji Kvareli’s Aliko Dolidze. It isn’t even a question. He’s come along brilliantly. He took over as the starter after the 2040 Euros. With 27 caps at the age of 20, it looks like he will be between the sticks for the Crusaders for the next decade and beyond.
Our 1st XI features 2041 European Golden Boy Saba Kapanadze at libero, with Vasil Kantaria and Goga Nadiradze as the centerbacks. This is likely Kantaria’s swan song on the international stage. I’m hoping we can end it in style.
Our backup libero is Gia Sukhiashvili, another youngster with a bright future in front of him with the Crusaders, who has tremendous versatility in our system. Erekle Jibuti and Murman Akhalaia are the backup centerbacks; neither will set the world on fire, but they’re dependable.
Our starting wingbacks will be Besik Chichinadze and Tengiz Baramidze, backed up by Revaz Tabatadze and Beka Kiknadze. It was a close call between Chichinadze and Kiknadze; Kiknadze should take over the starting role as he continues to develop.
At mezzala, we see more familiar faces as Lasha Gegia and 2039 European Golden Boy Zurab Ghoghoberidze will start. Their backups are Giorgi Beriashvili, Davit Abulashvili and Lasha Bitskiniashvili; the latter 2 also provide depth up top.
Irakli Kurashvili and Dima Ghoghoberidze will lead the line for the Crusaders, backed up by the capable Goga Gabelia, a Duruji Kvareli youth academy graduate who never reached the first team squad. If we are going to have any success in England, we will need these three to step up.
As indicated above, I think this is the strongest Georgian side that we’ve seen in the 20 years since this journey began. We’re also young, which bodes well for 2046 and beyond.
Barring a calamity against Iraq, the forgiving nature of the expanded World Cup format favors us greatly. We do not “need” a result against Uruguary. But I’m confident we can get one.
The Federation expect us to reach the Second Round. Perfectly reasonable. If we can get a result against Uruguay (and thus a favorable draw for the Second Round), the Third Round isn’t out of the question.
England 2042 – World Cup Group Stage; Georgia vs. Uruguay.
The first match against 15th-ranked Uruguay could set the tone for our tournament. It is also the Crusaders’ World Cup debut.
We start brilliantly. Dangerous. In control.
As Uruguay look to gain a foothold in the match, we strike first blood — an incisive counterattack from a Uruguayan corner. Dima Ghoghoberidze feeding Irakli Kurashvili, who slots it home. 1-nil.
Just as la Celeste are fighting to get back into the match, Kantaria is taken down on a corner. VAR is checked to make sure, but there can only be one answer. Penalty to Georgia. Kurashvili steps forward, ice in his veins, and buries it. It’s 2-nil.
The halftime whistle blows. Our supporters dare to dream. They have every reason for optimism.
In the 47th, Uruguay are dead and buried. Tengiz Baramidze with a devastating cutback, smashed home from close range by Zurab Ghoghoberidze. 3-nil.
A long throw-in from Kiknadze in the 82nd causes chaos in the Uruguayan box, as their keeper flaps at the ball. Kurashvili pounces to claim his hat trick. 4-nil.
To their credit, Uruguay do not give up the fight and claim a late consolation goal off of a free kick into the box.
The final whistle blows. An historic result, by any measure.
England 2042 – World Cup Group Stage; Georgia vs. Iraq.
Basking in the euphoria of the Uruguay result, I decide to fully rotate our field players for the match against 76th-ranked Iraq, who are making their World Cup debut. This should be a straightforward tie.
An early penalty is called in our favor, but Bitskinashvili is denied by the Iraqi goalkeeper, who proceeds to hold us at bay for much of the first half. However, Kiknadze manages to find Beriashvili with a dangerous cutback in the 33rd minute and Giorgi makes no mistake from close range. 1-nil.
We continue to threaten, but cannot find the back of the net as the first half draws to a close. We must be more ruthless.
In the 64th, Khvadagiani catches the keeper flat-footed, beating him at his near post. 2-nil. Unforgivable, and a shame given the match their keeper has had up until now. He is the only reason it isn’t worse.
Gegia makes it 3 in the 87th, testing the Iraqi keeper from distance.
Finally, the celebrations can begin. The final whistle blows, the scoreline 3-nil stands. We’ve not only qualified for the knockout rounds, we’ve done so as winners of the Group. The bad news? Davit Abulashvili is out for 3-5 weeks with a twisted ankle. His tournament is over.
Now, the wait begins to see who we will draw in the Second Round.
England 2042 – World Cup Group Stage Review.
The biggest surprises of the Group Stage? The elimination of Mexico and Mateo Retegui’s Argentina.
We will face 21st-ranked Cameroon in the Second Round. The winner faces a potential Third Round match against the hosts, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s England.
England 2042 – World Cup, Second Round vs. Cameroon.
Having rotated the squad for the Iraq match, we are well-rested heading into the knockout rounds. Our 1st XI last featured 12 days ago against Uruguay. Maybe this won’t make a difference, but every little bit counts.
The match could see former Duruji Kvareli player Yannick Eto’o claim his 100th cap for Cameroon, but he starts on the bench as Les Lions Indomptables kick off in a cautious 442.
The first 25 minutes are a stalemate, broken when a long throw-in from Chichinadze finds Kapanadze free behind the Cameroonian defense. A simple tap-in. 1-nil.
In the 44th minute, Kapanadze turns provider, finding Kantaria unmarked at the near post on a corner. He heads home with ease. 2-nil. We’re flying. In complete control.
Kapanadze continues his brilliant day with an unstoppable free kick in the 70th, curled into the top corner to make it 3-nil. We see out the match with ease, a consummate, professional result.
England 2042 – World Cup, Third Round vs. England.
We kick off against hosts England, and start with a statement of purpose, hitting the post in the 2nd minute after our counterpress forces a turnover. A good omen.
We hold our own in the opening stages, and take the lead when Kuipers lets a straightforward shot from Kapanadze (from an oblique angle) slip through his fingers. 1-nil to the Crusaders. A dream start. It came from nothing.
England hit the post in the 32nd minute and again in the 44th, but we manage to clear each time. Chichinadze takes a knock in the latter, and is replaced by Kiknadze.
Halftime is a welcome respite as England have fought their way back into the match. We drop our defensive line marginally.
An hour gone, and we’ve effectively killed off the match. But we know that the Solskjaer’s men will begin bombing forward even more aggressively soon.
In the 73rd minute, Kurashvili drops deep to harry Prout, winning possession and breaking forward at pace, only for Prout to cruelly hack him down from behind. Prout is already on a yellow. The ref does not hesitate. He shows Prout a second yellow. England are down to 10 men.
Tabatadze and Beriashvili enter the fray, as the fullbacks are instructed to be more cautious.
But we need not worry. England’s spirit is broken. They cannot muster another meaningful look at goal, as we smother the match, snuffing out any spark of resistance. To claim an historic win. An epic result.
England 2042 – World Cup, Quarterfinals vs. Netherlands.
Baramidze is suspended against the Dutch. But the 1st XI is otherwise ready to go on the biggest match in Georgian football history. While it would normally be nice to see Westerveld, it is not pleasant seeing him warm up in the colors of another side.
We are strong in the early stages. Confident. But Kapanadze concedes a penalty with the most minute touch, in the 18th minute. It is a foul. But there was no malice, whatever cold comfort that may provide. Smit buries it, to give the Dutch the lead. It is the first time we’ve fallen behind all tournament.
Kapanadze works to repay our faith, digging deep. Pushing forward. Relentless. The engine of our attack.
And in the 39th minute, he catches the Dutch keeper flat-footed with an unstoppable thunderbastard from 30 yards. A beautiful equalizer. All to play for. Redemption, thy name is Saba Kapanadze.
At the half, it is anyone’s match. But we look good value to scalp the Dutch. An hour gone, and it is still anyone’s match. Kiknadze and Gabelia will replace Chichinadze and Dima Ghoghoberidze. 10 minutes later, the Dutch have retreated into their shell. Sukhiashvili will replace Gegia.
Something has to give. We have to turn our chances into goals.
Moments later, a long-throw from Kiknadze wreaks havoc in the Dutch box. Gabelia is there to flick it home, as we take a 2-1 lead. Chaos.
The Dutch will not go down without a fight, launching forward, heading just over in the 76th. We’ve dropped our line and restrained the wingbacks, to steady the defense.
The moment passes, the Dutch regaining their composure. There will be 4 minutes of injury time.
No matter. The Dutch would have needed 20. They cannot break through our defensive wall.
The final whistle blows. Goga Gabelia, the man once deemed not good enough to play for Duruji Kvareli, has sent the Crusaders through to the World Cup semifinals.
England 2042 – World Cup, Semifinals vs. Italy.
Tengiz Baramdize returns to the XI, while Saba Kapanadze is suspended as we face the Italians in London. Kiknadze and Akhalaia will start, in place of the tiring Chichinadze and Nadiradze.
The stage is set. 90 minutes proves all.
Vaglini strikes in the 11th minute, as we fail to clear a corner. Unacceptable.
In the 20th, we draw level when Zurab Ghoghoberidze finds Kantaria on the back post from a free kick, the big man heading home from close range. 1-1. All to play for.
Vaglini gives the Italians the lead again in the 29th, volleying home at the culmination of a lethal counterattack.
Frustration abounds at halftime. We are in the match. But we must take it.
In the 51st, another long free kick finds Dima Ghoghoberidze free at the back post, but he fires straight at Di Giacobbe in the Italian goal as the offsides flag rises. Akhalaia has been a disappointment. Nadiradze will take his place.
But all of our momentum hits a brick wall in the 63rd, when Gegia is shown a second yellow for a non-existent foul on Vaglini. We’re down to 10 men.
We do not give up. We battle. We fight. We press.
And in the 82nd minute we are rewarded. Kurashvili’s counterpress forcing a turnover, which sees Kiknadze blazing down the left flank before centering for Kurashvili to smash home. 2-2. Against all odds, we are back level.
In the 87th minute, Baramidze clears a Piccinno header off the line, off a corner.
And like a phoenix rising from the ashes, we refuse to go quietly into the night. Dima Ghoghoberidze finds Giorgi Beriashvili, who calmly slots home in the 113th minute. 3-3.
Neither side can break through. It will be penalties.
Aliko Dolidze saves from Origlia, to give us an advantage. Kurashvili calmly sends the keeper the other way, and buries his. We take a 1-nil lead after the first round.
Giarba buries his penalty, as does Dima Ghoghoberidze, to give us a 2-1 lead after 2 rounds.
Cristini shows nerves of steel, sending Dolidze the wrong way, but Sukhiashvili matches him. We lead 3-2 after 3 rounds.
Bianchini will take Italy’s fourth kick, and tries a cheeky chip down the middle, but Dolidze is wise to it, parrying the ball away. The big man has given us every advantage.
Levan Shekiladze strides forward…he can win the match for Georgia.
He calmly places the ball in the bottom right corner,well beyond the keeper’s reach. We win the shootout, 4-2. Epic.
England 2042 – World Cup, Final vs. Spain.
Vincent Kompany’s Spain will enter the match as favorites. As well they should be. But if that mattered, we would have flown home several weeks ago. As it stands, we are 90 minutes from immortality.
Gegia is suspended. Kapanadze returns to the XI. Abulashvili returns to the bench, but will not play. The moment is finally here.
We look dangerous early, but a lightning-fast counterattack from Spain sees Andreu with a gilt-edged chance in the 9th minute, but Dolidze stays big to deny him.
Spain are not to be denied, however, as Larrazabal gets around our flank in the 10th minute, crossing for Andreu, who heads home.
Zurab Ghoghoberidze nearly equalizes in the 18th minute, but is denied by Guillem in the Spanish goal. The ensuing corner eludes the target at the near post, falling to Dima Ghoghoberidze in acres of space at the back post, but he can’t hit the target. We should be level.
And in the 22nd minute, we are. Spain are pressing high. We play through it, Chichinadze hitting Zurab Ghoghoberidze in the channel, who reaches the endline and cuts it back to Kurashvili, who flicks it on for Baramidze to smash home. The dream continues.
We break the Spanish high press again, working our way forward until Kurashvili selflessly leaves the ball for Beriashvili, deputizing for the suspended Gegia. The 20 year-old leathers it into the near-post top corner. 2-1, to the Crusaders in the 38th minute. Madness ensues. Less than 2 minutes later, Kapanadze forces Guillem into a brilliant save, tipping the swerving shot off of the bar. Spain clear, but they are rattled.
Against all the odds, we have a lead at the half. Can we hold it?
Spain pressure from the first whistle, and draw level in the 54th, Ubieto’s corner finding Andreu rising above Nadiradze at the near post.
Spain’s quality is showing through. The match hangs in the balance with 20 minutes to play. Kiknadze will replace Chichinadze. Gabelia is on for Dima Ghoghoberidze.
Rodrigues splits our defense with a Xavi-esque through ball to Andreu in the 74th. This time, he makes no mistake. Spain lead, 3-2.
We push forward. In the 83rd minute, Kiknadze breaks down the left flank, whipping a cross towards Kurashvili in the box. He’s taken out. A clear penalty. Kurashvili strikes through the ball, driving it into the back of the net. We’re back level, 3-3, with less than 10 minutes to play.
Tabatadze will replace the tiring Baramidze. There are five minutes of injury time. But neither side can break through. Extra time it is.
Khvadagiani prepares to replace Shekiladze in the 97th minute. Both sides are exhausted after going to penalties in the semifinals, but neither will relent. Will it be the lottery of penalties…again?
In the 109th minute, Kurashvili catches Larrazabal in possession and strides forward with purpose. He makes no mistake. He buries it in the far corner. Georgia stand on the verge of history.
We drop our line and handcuff the wingbacks, to keep them from getting caught out of position. Spain are relentless. But they cannot create anything meaningful. We win a dangerous free kick on the counter, and in the 113th minute nearly extend our lead, Kurashvili nearly poking home, only for Ero to block the ball on the line. So close. Spain look to counter, but we recover our shape.
We are defiant. Resolute.
And then, it is. We’ve done it. World Cup champions. I have no words.
Quite rightly, our players are lauded with awards. Kurashvili wins the Golden Ball as player of the tournament. Kapanadze’s thunderbastard against the Dutch is named the goal of the tournament. Dolidze wins the Lev Yashin award. And we have four players named in the Best XI — Dolidze, Kapanadze, Beriashvili and Kurashvili.
July 2042 – The Path Forward.
The obvious question at this point is, having won the Champions League with Duruji Kvareli and the World Cup with Georgia, where does the save go from here? We continue on, of course.
I do not think we can tick off every item on our Achievement Hunter list (updated with the World Cup result). For example, 1000 club appearances is almost certainly a bridge too far with the way I rotate my squad.
But there’s no doubt that declaring the save “complete” at this point would be wrong in every possible sense.
After all, the goal was to take Duruji Kvareli and Georgia to the “pinnacle” of world football. Arguably we’ve done that. But only in a narrow sense.
While our attention was focused on the World Cup, Duruji Kvareli retained its status as the “top” team in Europe. However, the Erovnuli Liga dropped to 8th in the competitions reputation table. And the Crusaders are only ranked 14th in the immediate aftermath of their World Cup triumph. Lokomotivi are the only other Georgian side to reach the Champions League knockout rounds, and that has only happened once (2040/41).
I’ve never been very good at math. Yet, I think we can all agree that 8th is not the “pinnacle” of anything. Neither is 14th.
Which can only mean one thing. We go again, lads.
July 2042 – Tactical Musings.
For the sake of my sanity, and in light of the fact that I’m going to continue use it with Duruji Kvareli this year, I’ve given the Nagelsmann-inspired “inverted strikerless” tactic we first deployed against Sociedad and at the World Cup a name — PM Haaienkanon (“Grapefruit SharkCannon”).
Of course, this tactic derives from the Nagelsmann “sharkmouth” principles detailed in Live Every Week Like It’s Shark Week, but it is the first one to deploy strikers (hence, “inverted strikerless”).
The thought process behind the tactic is detailed above, with a download link added to Those Who Do Not Move Do Not Notice Their Chains, which details the evolution of my Nagelsmann tactics over the last few months.
You can also download it here (Google Drive).
July 2042 – Squad Building.
The obvious question as we press forward is, do we stick with the same squad at Duruji Kvareli, or do we pivot and rebuild with Georgian players?
Before the World Cup kicked off, I was planning an influx of Georgian players in anticipation of needing to build up the national team for the long-term.
Even though we won the World Cup, my gut tells me to continue down the same path. I’m also excited about some of the players we could sign, but don’t have room for them in the squad. At the same time, the “big” single-season objectives for the save have largely been met (the current Achievement Hunter list). We don’t “need” to win the Champions League or World Cup, again, in and of themselves. While we will certainly try, what we “need” to do is maintain our success on the club level, while also building up Georgia competitively.
Which means I’m going to listen to offers for my non-Georgian players. I am not transfer listing anyone. Rather, I will: (1) listen to offers and see what we can negotiate; and (2) bring in the best young Georgian prospects, to backfill the squad.
We built one Champions League winning side, that has had an epic 5 year run — winning the title twice, finishing as runners-up once, and reaching the quarterfinals twice. A side that is considered to be the best in Europe.
Now, it is time to build another side. With a Georgian core.
One final thought before we press on. We failed to note the youth intake preview in all of the World Cup madness. It was dire.
By the end of the transfer window, our squad revision is all-but complete. We’ve gone from 14 Georgian players to 20, in a young, exciting 23-man squad.
It was an epic window. 2 young academy graduates promoted, with 4 additional signings in the door. But it is the players who left that hurt the most. Names like Diallo, Dieng, Farjallah, Kitawi, Akrofi, Westerveld. Big names.
The end of an era. A changing of the guard. It’s late, so player screenshots will have to come tomorrow as we head into the heart of the campaign.
While this was the most we’ve spent in a transfer window (by far), with the fees generated in our summer fire-sale Duruji Kvareli have officially entered Russ Hanneman’s “Tres Comas” Club, with more than a billion in the bank.
Nevertheless, thanks to the Erovnuli Liga’s stagnant reputation, we’re a 2nd seed for the Champions League Group Stage draw. We will face Luuk de Jong’s Juventus, Duvan Zapata’s Malaga, and Gent.
After the highs of the World Cup, we suffer the lows of the Nations League as a young Georgian side fall to Mickael Landreu’s France, 2-1 in Tbilisi, before a dire showing against Vinny Perth’s Ireland, losing 2-1 in Dublin.
While our domestic form continued to be strong, notwithstanding a scoreless draw against a defensive Samtredia, the youth intake was poor. Shalva Bitskinashvili is the best of the bunch, a two-footed winger who will only see the field at Kursha Road if he buys a ticket.
The post-World Cup hangover isn’t gone yet, as the Crusaders bury Croatia 2-nil on Nations League Matchday 3, before collapsing late in Bordeaux, a painful 3-1 loss.
Of course, this run of form isn’t altogether unexpected given that: (1) we’re in the ‘A’ Division, with mile-high expectations after the World Cup and an elevated reputation, which means our opponents are more likely to be cautious tactically; (2) I jettisoned various senior players, in favor of promising, untested youth. But it still hurts, in the short term.
On a less depressing note, our club form remains strong despite the massive turnover from the summer and having thrust a number of young, untested players into the 2nd XI. Our unbeaten streak in the Erovnuli Liga has stretched to 282 matches (dating back to March 2035), and we’ve retained our Davit Kipiani Cup title.
We’re neck and neck with Juventus in the Champions League, but they come to Kursha Road in a few days’ time.
November 2042 – International Fixtures.
The Nations League ended as it began. In frustration. We exacted our revenge against Vinny Perth’s Ireland with a 3-nil win in Tbilisi, but lost to Olof Mellberg’s Croatia on another late goal, a frustrating 2-1 scoreline. While the latter result may not be a surprising given the youth in our squad and modest squad rotation, it was still disappointing.
In the end, we finish 3rd. Croatia are relegated.
A strong finish to the campaign, highlighted by a 6-1 win away to 2nd place Dila Gori on Matchday 35 which saw us tally our 143rd goal of the campaign, beating the prior Erovnuli Liga record of 142 goals (which we tallied during the in 2038 campaign).
We finish the domestic campaign unbeaten, the streak now having reached 285 Erovnuli Liga matches. 148 goals for, only 8 conceded.
We also finished off the Champions League Group Stage with a comfortable 1-nil win over Malaga at Kursha Road, to secure seeding for the First Knockout Round.
As far as the Georgians go, our exploits with the Crusaders mean that we are a first seed for the Euro Qualifying draw. We walk away with a very favorable group — Israel, Poland, Slovakia, Armenia and Andorra. By all rights, we should have no trouble qualifying for Scotland/Wales 2044.
December 2042 – Season Review.
20 years into the save, and we’ve hit our major milestones having won the Champions League twice, and brought the World Cup title back home to Georgia.
Since the end of the World Cup, I’ve struggled a bit with motivation while also being extremely busy with life away from FM and trying to define what the next stage of the save looks like, now that our “big” goals are complete.
My initial gut instinct was to build a side heavily-focused on Georgian youth, but I’m questioning whether that is going to keep my interest. I started that process, but am now re-thinking it.
The Crusaders have reached the mountaintop. I have no doubt that we will remain competitive as a national side, as clubs have been investing in their facilities which has translated into more promising youth, seemingly with each passing year (although I am disappointed with the 2042 intakes around the Erovnuli Liga). However, winning the Euros or Nations League is a collateral achievement. It doesn’t motivate me to continue the save.
By the same token, I don’t want to head down the “sign a bunch of non-Georgian players” route. Instead, I intend to take a middle ground: (1) aim for a strong Georgian spine to the squad (e.g., 10 or more Georgian players); by (2) signing all of the promising Georgian youth prospects I can find, to retrain and develop as needed; without (3) swearing off the signing of foreign youth prospects who catch my eye; and (4) making better use of loans to help with player development, instead of keeping everyone in-house.
It makes sense to me. It is also a strategy that takes into consideration our status as the “best” club in Europe (according to the coefficients for the last 2 years) and massive bankroll.
Bottom line: the save is not ending with the 2042 World Cup win. We simply reached that defined “end” goal far earlier than expected. The broader, less tangible goal of elevating the status of the Georgian leagues is still an elusive target, one that is beyond my direct control. A few of the more specific achievements are also on my list; but more on that another time.
Goals for 2043: Battle for the 2042/43 Champions League title. Qualify for Euro 2044.
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.