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The Phoenix Must Burn To Emerge

Duruji Kvareli / Georgia – 2044 Open Thread

December 2043 / January 2044 – Odds & Ends, Initial Transfer News.

We draw Thomas Delaney’s Atletico in the Champions League knockout rounds. This is widely seen as a favorable draw, as the Spaniards sit a disappointing 5th in La Liga and we eliminated them at this stage 2 years ago.

The 2042 award season arrives with Shaw suffering the side effects of his anti-malaria medication, ahead of his trip to Abidjan for the Cup of Nations. I would think he’s used to the vivid hallucinations, by now — just another Tuesday, thank you very much.

It’s Sizzurp for everyone, as Atle Hovring wins both the Ballon d’Or and World Player of the Year for the second year running.

And, for the second year running, Guga Iashvili claims both the World Golden Glove and World Goalkeeper of the Year. It goes without saying that Iashvili is the lynchpin of all that we hope to accomplish with Duruji Kvareli and Georgia.

Iashvili and Hovring are also named to the World Team of the Year alongside Dariusz Sapa, which is otherwise filled with players from the “big” clubs we delight in beating. (This is the second straight year in which Hovring has earned this distinction.)

Naturally, Miguel “Katchip” Katchipwisayla claims his fair share of honors, and for the third straight year is named Broadcaster’s African Footballer of the Year, African Footballer of the Year, African Defender of the Year and to the African XI.

Jalal Hosseinpour is also named Asian Footballer of the Year for the 5th time in 6 years.

If there’s one thing I have to give Shaw credit for, he knows how to strike when the opportunity arises.

“Boss, I’ve done it. The deal is sealed, if you know what I mean.”

The roguish wink tells me more than I’d ever like to know. But, for once, our near-telepathic ability to communicate is not working. I had last seen him with a fetching brunette and don’t want to know the details.

“Just tell me you didn’t use your ‘sexy robot’ voice, Shawzy. That’s a sound you simply can’t un-hear.”

Shaw‘s eyes widen. “Oh, no. Boss. I didn’t think that would be appropriate. I mean, that’s…just… Special. Boss. Not for just anyone.”

I nod, somewhat surprised. It is his “go-to” move. I’ve only tried it once, and we’ve all agreed it would be best if no one spoke about “Corfu ’36” ever again.

Shaw still seems confused, though. “And it’s not like I’d use it on Maxim anyways.”

Now I’m the one confused. On several levels.

In due course, the confusion is cleared up. After months of asking him to do so, Maxim Prokhorenko has declared his allegiance to Georgia. A big moment.

Almost big enough to make me forget about that brunette.


Ahead of our pre-season tour of South Korea, we get some bad new. Both Toni Panchev and Magnus Oliver Hjaltason have advised the club that they will not be signing new contracts.

A previous reluctance to negotiate has turned into a clear, unmistakable statement. While Panchev is utterly replaceable, Hjaltason is one for the ages. I do not begrudge him this decision. Especially when we are already planning to pivot towards a first-team squad comprised largely of Georgian nationals.

The biggest decision arrives, however, when Keita Balde’s Chelsea begin to chase Katchipwisayla. We knock back an initial, desultory $52 million offer. Shaw is abundantly clear, when sending our response. “It’s $225 million plus 50 percent of the next sale, you Cockney ****s.”

They respond at $57 million, three days later. Shaw merely reiterates the message.

It seems they might be finally getting the message when, another 3 days later, a bald Frank Lampard flies into Kvareli on a private jet, wearing a full kit (not a Chelsea kit, mind), in hopes of negotiating further. His opening demand? $198 million.

Shaw just laughs, but the laughter does not reach his eyes. “Did I stutter?!”

Lampard hangs his head in shame. “No, you did not.”

Shaw does not respond. He merely waits.

The minutes pass by. Lampard won’t meet his eye. Eventually, he mumbles meekly, “no, sir. You did not, sir.”

Still, Shaw waits.

Lampard sits, head bowed. Shoulders slumped. This “negotiation” is anything but a negotiation.

They know our price.

Eventually, Shaw takes out his phone and sends a message to Lampard, who winces at the chime of his phone. It’s a gif. Simple. Straight to the point.

A tear falls from Lampard‘s eye. He nods, still refusing to meet Shaw‘s unblinking gaze. Shaw grunts in displeasure, gesturing at Lampard‘s phone.

Frank knows what is being asked of him.

He complies without a sound, sending a contextually-appropriate Bill Murray gif to signal Chelsea’s assent to our terms.

As one does.

With Bill’s blessing, the terms of the deal are set.

In dog dollars, that’s a $1.575 billion up-front fee. But dogs are crap with personal finance.

Katchipwisayla is not agitating for a move. Much less this move. Yet, we have two young Georgian liberos who need minutes to develop. And our focus is on far more than just “winning.” We’ve tasted Champions League glory. Now, we must develop players for the Crusaders, in preparation for the Euros (in 6 months’ time) and the 2046 World Cup in China.

As we recognized following last year’s Champions League final defeat at the hands of urCristiano’s Virus, the phoenix must burn to emerge.

(We have a deal. His will not be the last departure of the transfer window, even if it is certain to dominate the headlines when confirmed, one week later.

Lampard blows his nose on the sleeve of his Bournemouth kit. A fitting, metaphorical end to this “negotiation.”

(It is the 13th highest transfer fee in the history of the game, at the time of completion. It is also the 4th time in 12 months that we have broken the club and Georgian record for transfer fee received. When the fifty-percent sell-on is added later, it could easily become the largest transfer fee ever. A testament to a player of his caliber.)

Amidst all of the drama surrounding Katchipwisayla, we celebrate the previously-announced arrival of Irakli Tsnobiladze ($7.5 million, Nurnberg). He will train as a shadow striker and play with our 2nd XI.

After television rights were stagnant in 2043 — not increasing a penny over the payments in 2042 — we see movement again. It is a modest year-on-year increase, but the Erovnuli Liga per-team payments will be $69.02 million for 2044, up from $66.27 million in 2043 and 2042.

January 2044 – Transfer Updates.

The transfer window rumbles on, my mind focused on departures. Our goal is not to banish all non-Georgian players.

Rather, we must strike the balance between: (1) promoting and making room for the Georgian players we need to develop for the national side; without (2) sacrificing our ability to compete on the European stage.

Despite our focus on outgoing transfers, we still celebrate the long-awaited arrival of Stefan Carpanu ($3.8 million, Steaua Bucharest). Awkward, perhaps, given our change in focus following his signing. But he has a role to play.

In the end, Hjaltason, Panchev and Hosseinpour leave at the end of the window for a combined $136 million in fees, with 50 percent sell-on clauses for Panchev and Hosseinpour. Carpanu leaves the following day for a six-month loan at Le Havre.

A busy, highly-profitable window. Yet, we’ve only lost 3 players from our 1st XI — at libero, mezzala and shadow striker.

[Note: This is not the time for a full-blown squad review, given how little I’ve been able to play these past few weeks. Suffice to say that we will fully assess the Georgian squad ahead of the Euros, and then Duruji Kvareli squad no later than the start of the 2045 campaign.]

The Board, in their infinite wisdom, decide to invest $230 million into Shaw’s nascent football-inspired candle business — which I suspect is little more than a thinly-veiled, albeit sophisticated, multi-level marketing scheme. To his credit, Luke does take it pretty seriously. “Istanbul ’05” captures the heady magic of a night on the Bosporus, just the right amount of spice. “Emirates ’12,” the smell of fresh cut grass. “Beef” smells like…well, beef. “Anfield ’94,” that of an overflowing urinal.

That may be $230 million we never see again. But it was money well spent. Maybe.

February 2044 – Champions League, First Knockout Round (1st Leg).

The annual projections are released shortly before our final pre-season match — we are the heavy favorites to claim our 18th straight Erovnuli Liga title, the 1-25 odds the same as in 2043.

Per usual, we place 10 players in the media’s pre-season Dream XI, with Dila Gori‘s Mikheil Vasadze is, once again, the token non-Duruji Kvareli player in the lineup.

We romp through 90 minutes against Mtskheta, to round out a solid pre-season for our 25-man squad.

Of course, the real test awaits in Madrid. At the Wanda Metropolitano.

Our 1st XI are ready. The media are ready to criticize, should we fall at the first hurdle after the changes we’ve seen over the last year, especially with 17 year-old Tvildiani taking over for Katchip. Big shoes to fill, literally and metaphorically.

Munteanu gets us started in the 17th minute, rising to head home after Mbabu finds him with a floated cross to the back post. Prokhorenko rattles the post from 30 yards, a few minutes later. We seem to be slowly finding our groove.

The score remains 1-nil at the half. We need to find another gear, and be more ruthless in front of goal.

Kamladze replaces Khasenov in the 57th, after the latter takes a knock. The match has settled into a dull rhythm, not at all unlike that time when my neighbor’s kid was learning the acoustic guitar, but only knew the intro to the theme song from How I Met Your Mother, and played it over and over…on what seemed like an endless loop.

That was a long summer.

But I digress.

Tvildiani heads just over in the 64th. It’s time to ring the changes. Joly replaces Mestrovic, as Aladashvili replaces Prokhorenko.

Tvildiani gets behind the Spanish line in the 78th, hitting one off the post…where it slowly rolls along the goalline…before being cleared. So close, and yet so far. It would have been a dream for the 17 year-old, desperate to emerge from Katchip‘s shadow.

Jikia hammers home from 6 yards out in the 81st, to give us a 2-nil lead. Minutes later, the bit between our teeth, Tvildiani plays a sumptuous ball for Sapa who is hitting the channel at full pace, firing home to make it 3 and likely end the tie.

A tremendous result after a slow start. We will bring a 3-nil lead back to the Goose.

March 2044 – Champions League, First Knockout Round (2nd Leg).

The GFF Super Cup is — per usual — a laughably one-sided affair. We annihilate Lokomotivi 4-nil to claim our 13th straight title.

The 2nd XI play 2 of our first 3 Erovnuli Liga matches (against Samtredia and Dinamo Batumi), as we rotate the squad to ensure the lads are fit for the return leg against Atletico. For his part, Tsnobiladze claims 2 goals on his debut, both coming in the first 10 minutes.

Bottom line, we’re on form heading into the first big match of the year at the Goose. Sapa is back from his bout with the flu, so we have our complete 1st XI on hand.

We take the lead in the 25th through Hovring, who rises to head home a Mestrovic free kick.

Which is where the score lies at halftime. Sapa has taken a knock; Aladashvili replaces him.

Gelashvili and Kamladze enter the fray on the hour mark. The match is over, even if Atletico have yet to acknowledge it.

Ramos mishandles a thunderbolt from Mbabu in the 82nd, which sees us double our lead on the night…and sparks something of a revival from Atletico, who immediately march down the pitch and pull one back.

We switched off. Momentarily. Simple as that.

The end has already been written. We’re through, 5-1 on aggregate.

In the draw, I am not sure who I want to face. But I’m thrilled to see Steven Gerrard’s Liverpool come out of the hat.

Gerrard’s men sit a distant 3rd in the Premier League, and we have a solid record against them over the years. We have reason for optimism. Even if none of it matters once we set foot on the pitch.

March 2044 – International Friendlies.

We hand debuts to Jimsheleishvili, Prokhorenko and Khuroshvili against Malta. The result does not matter. Yet we still run riot in a 6-nil win in H’Attard with Prokhorenko claiming a brace, a brilliant start to his Georgian career (after his 18 caps and 3 goals for Belarus, before he switch allegiance). The match also saw Gospodinov claim his first international goal.

Uzbekistan are made of sterner stuff. On paper, at least. Whatever that means.

We control the match in Tbilisi and claim a 4-2 win behind an Otar Jikia hat trick (and Kamladze’s first international goal), though the manner in which we gifted our guests 2 goals is highly disconcerting (even if it was very considerate of the lads).

Again, the results do not matter. The real issue here is to build up our experience. So that when we begin qualifying for the World Cup, our young players are not overawed by the occasion.

April 2044 – Champions League, Quarterfinals (1st Leg).

The Goose is ready. We need a good result tonight. No half-measures.

In the 15th minute, Mbabu whips a corner to the near post, where Arveladze leaps like the salmon of Capistrano to redirect the ball into the side netting at the far post. 1-nil.

But Gerrard’s Liverpool are not going to go quietly. Iashvili gets a strong hand to a Diego Olivera cannonball, moments later to maintain our narrow lead.

It doesn’t last. A mistouch from Munteanu in the 18th minute gifts the ball to Sanchez, 3 yards from goal. 1-1. Utterly unacceptable.

In the 25th minute, disaster strikers. Liverpool go direct and hit us on the counter…yet, now it our turn to not go quietly into the night, with Sapa heading home in the 31st minute.

At this rate, the match will end 7-4. We adjust our lines slightly, in hopes of both keeping things slightly tighter at the back and creating more space to attack in transition.

Like Mr. Bolton, we won’t go down without a fight.

Our halftime team talk consists of little more than Luke Shaw explaining the term “Scouser” to the lads, replete with mime and the occasional mocking voices.

Whatever he intended, it has the right effect as in the 49th minute Mbabu whips another corner, inswinging this time, finding Arveladze to head home at the near post. Shaw spends the next 5 minutes prancing about the technical area, telling Gerrard to calm down in a highly exaggerated, animated fashion.

It is Mbabu‘s 3rd assist of the night. Our American-Congolese roaming playmaker is having a brilliant night.

Hovring should make it 4 in the 52nd minute, but he fires narrowly wide after Jokia set him free, romping behind the Liverpool back line. And we live to regret it as this has been a poor night, defensively. Liverpool draw level again in the 61st, Painter heading home from point-blank range.

We ring the changes, bringing on Joly, Gospodinov and Gelashvili, and begin to drag ourselves back into the match, statistically. But we cannot find the back of the net again.

The final whistle blows. A 3-3 draw. A big night for Gerrard’s men.

April 2044 – Champions League, Quarterfinals (2nd Leg).

The 2nd XI handle the trip to big spending Dinamo Tbilisi over the weekend, securing a 3-nil win over our domestic rivals.

We’ve got our work cut out for us at Anfield. We are so focused on the 2nd leg, we forget to watch the draw for the Euros. Perhaps it is for the best. We will face Patrick Vieira’s France, Fabio Grosso’s Holland, and Roman Yevgenjev’s Russia.

That’s gonna leave a mark.

Anfield is electric, and it doesn’t help our cause when they strike first. It’s only the 5th minute. This is not the start we wanted.

In the 7th, we lose our concentration and they strike again. The word ‘disaster’ does not even begin to describe it.

Yet, we adjust, regain our composure and begin to threaten. Hovring pulls one back in the 16th minute.

With 45 minutes to play, the ante to advance remains 2 goals. We must commit men forward and start taking our chances.

The match opens up, predictably. And Liverpool take their first chance of the half, to make it 3-1 on the night after we are, again, careless in defense. It does not change the fact that we need 2 goals. But it puts us on the edge.

In the 58th minute, Prokhorenko takes his chance, chipping delicately over the onrushing keeper after a brilliant through ball from Sapa. 3-2. The crowd is silenced.

But only momentarily. Liverpool strike back immediately, to restore their 2 goal lead and reignite the passions of the crowd. We made it all too easy.

Again, we need 2 goals. With just over 30 minutes to play, there is nothing to do but push forward.

In the 63rd minute, Mbabu sends a line-drive throw-in to the near post, where Tvildiani flicks it into the back of the net. What a moment for our 17 year-old libero. 4-3. We’re not done for. Not yet.

Or, are we? Our aggression is again our undoing. Sanchez finding space behind our high defensive line, firing home to once again restore Liverpool’s 2-goal lead.

Are we paying the price for our Georgian squad revolution? Or is this simply the necessary moment in which we build character, en route to future glory? Only time will tell. But, for now, we have a match to finish. And we will not go down without fighting.

A free kick wide right, we commit men forward…and Liverpool punish us in transition. The same pattern repeats a little while later. ****.

I’m loathe to admit it, but it is over. Our analysts look for (and find) the silver lining in the statistics, but the cold, hard reality is that we’ve been utterly taken apart.

No one says a word the entire flight home. No one sleeps.

This is a loss that will haunt us until the day we claim our revenge.

Shaw took the loss at Anfield well, all things considered.

April/May 2044.

In hindsight, I do not know what else we should have expected. While 7 players from our 2042 Champions League-winning 1st XI (who annihilated Liverpool, 3-nil) are still in our 1st XI, we have sold players for fees totaling more than $763 million over the last 24 months.

The fact that we have done so for a noble purpose — to focus on developing Georgian youth — is irrelevant.

Bottom line: we do not have the same depth of talent as we did, 24 months ago. Objectively. We have ceded a competitive advantage to our continental rivals.

Moreover, our domestic rivals are beginning to catch up. For the first time in nearly 20 years, we are not the last Georgian team standing in European competition — that honor falls to Saburtalo, who defeat Hamilton 2-nil (agg.) to reach the Europa Conference League semifinals.

No one asked you, Burr.

Before we leave Liverpool, Shaw also manages to claim his revenge — taking his frustrations out on Gerrard’s pearlescent white Mercedes, which was carelessly left on the street across from our hotel, while Stevie ran in to grab a coffee. Seizing the moment, Shaw gives him a Chicago Sunroof. (Too bad he didn’t realize there were two small children in the back seat. But that’s a story for another day.)

Takeover rumors are rampant when we land back in Tbilisi. But our focus is on the pitch. We have 2 months before the Euros, and another 3 months after that until Champions League play resumes.

A long wait. An eternity, it seems. Yet, by the same token, it is an opportunity for our young side to develop further. To prepare for the challenges ahead.

Truly, though, we must be living in a Kafka-esque hellscape — Son Heung-Min’s Arsenal and Gerrard’s Liverpool will meet in the Champions League final, after they run rampant in the second legs of their respective semifinals.

Saburtalo take Joao Mario’s Nantes to penalties but fall in the 6th round. An epic run which should do wonders for their international reputation, and boost Georgia’s reputation as a whole.

We are playing well enough in the Erovnuli Liga. The youngsters and our 2nd XI is coming along.

Yet I cannot shake the arrogance of the pundits from my mind. The barking laugh of that snide ****, Carragher, as he laughed at our homegrown players taking on the “mighty” Liverpool.

We need to climb to the top of the pile again, and do so with a decidedly Georgian flavor to the squad.

No half-measures. There are 9 foreign players in our first-team squad. That is all. No more. 2 of them are already marked for departure (Joly and Adamo).

We will not cast the other 7 into the wilderness. But we also will not replace them with more foreign players, or stockpile foreign talent.

Let the ****s in Tbilisi stockpile foreigners. We brought fame and fortune to Georgia in the first instance, becoming an institution that made our nation proud. Now, we will return to our roots, and reclaim our spot at the top of the European footballing pyramid. The spiritual home of Georgian football no longer, we will be the literal home, as well.

June 2044 – European Review.

In the Champions League, Steven Gerrard’s Liverpool defeated Arsenal, 3-nil. Going out in the quarterfinals? That hurt. Going out in the quarterfinals to the eventual champions? That hurts less. But only a little less.

In the Europa League, Keita Balde’s Chelsea defeated Thierry Henry’s Lyon, 2-nil.

In the Europa Conference League, Joao Mario’s Nantes defeated Teemu Pukki’s Stuttgart on penalties, after a 2-2 draw.

In the active leagues, Thomas Tuchel’s Barcelona won their first title in 6 years; Merih Demiral’s Manchester United won their first title in 6 years; Henry’s Lyon won the Ligue 1 title, their 2nd in 3 years which may hint at the end of PS-****-G‘s dominance; Mario Hermoso’s Roma won their first Serie A title in 6 years; and, Julian Nagelsmann’s Bayern did Bayern things, again.

The Erovnuli Liga still sits 7th in the UEFA competition rankings, behind Portugal. However, we are still above Portugal in the nation club coefficients table, narrowing the gap with France.

Duruji Kvareli remain 1st in the club coefficients table.  Reputation-wise, we drop 1 spot to 5th, beneath Gerrard’s Liverpool, urCristiano’s Real Madrid, Nagelsmann’s Bayern and Ruben Amorim’s Manchester City.

June 2044 – Euro 2044, Georgia Squad Review.

On the eve of our first major tournament with the Crusaders, my gaze is firmly fixed on the horizon. The 2046 and 2050 World Cups. Everything we are doing with both club and country must be focused on the future.

Interestingly enough, our 23-man squad features 14 current Duruji Kvareli players. 7 of the other 9 players came through our system.

The squad is also extremely young, with only 4 players over the age of 25. That being said, the squad is not as young as it could be, given the final selection decisions that were made.

That system, of course, has been focused on a strikerless interpretation of Nagelsmann’s “sharkmouth” principles. While I am tempted to tweak our tactics (for both club and country), I don’t want to change our tactical principles at this juncture.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at the squad.


In goal, there is only one answer to the question we’re asking.

Guga Iashvili is our starter. Simple as. Putting anyone else in goal simply cannot happen, even for a laugh.

Tornike Skhirtladze and Nikoloz Gigiadze are not terrible. But they are not good enough to rival Iashvili, who will need to be in good form for us to win anything. (Gigiadze is also the first of two non-Duruji Kvareli players.)


At libero, I have taken the risk of selecting two young Duruji Kvareli players. As noted above, Giorgi Tvildiani took over for Katchipwisayla in our 1st XI, and has tremendous potential. But he’s 17. The growing pains we will endure over the coming months will pay off in time. I hope.

Giorgi Gvazava is our backup libero. Suffice to say that he has not acclimatized as quickly to his new position as Tvilidiani, but in time he should prove perfectly competent for both club and country.

Our starting centerback pairing will be Levan Kamladze and Irakli Arveladze, with Davit Jimeleishvili and Omar Amisulashvili as backups. This is, all things considered, a strong back 4. That being said, Amisulashvili is a player who bewilders me. Standing a mere 5’9″, he’s shorter than I would like for a centerback…but he has springs for legs. He thus serves as coverage at centerback and left wingback.

At wingback, Guram Oniani and Gia Koberidze patrol the flanks for our 1st XI. Davit Makaradze and Giorgi Khuroshvili are our backups. And, if you’re like me, you’re seeing the issue — both of our right wingbacks are over the age of 30. The plan right now is for Oniani to continue on as our starter through the 2046 World Cup, at which point Mamia Jancharidze will take over (with Jancharidze joining the squad for the 2044 the Nations League, ahead of his arrival at the Goose).


Soso Bokhashvili is our starting roaming playmaker — an extremely solid player, who is not a starter at Liverpool, but is more than capable of taking care of business for the Crusaders. Stoyan Gospodinov is a very capable, promising backup who can also provide cover as a mezzala. (I would have retrained Gospodinov as a libero, if only his tackling wasn’t so abysmal.)

Our starting mezzalas for the Euros will be Karen Mkhitaryan (who I have half a mind to bring to Kakheti, having missed out on him when he moved to the City of Lights a few years ago, but only if Sapa were to leave) and Volodymyr “Luke Shaw Hates Me” Shevchuk. Maxim Prokhorenko will push for a starting role soon enough, with Giorgi Aladashvili another promising player for the future.

Attacking Midfielders.

Up top, Otar Jikia and Goga Tabukashvili will lead the line. I anticipate that Tabukashvili will fall down the pecking order soon enough, with Giorgi Gelashvili and Irakli Tsnobiladze showing plenty of potential.

Final Thoughts.

Our friendlies leading into the tournament pass with little fanfare — a 2-nil win over Slovenia, and a raucous 5-4 win over Scotland that no doubt entertained the neutrals.

We are a long ways from our goal — winning the World Cup. We also have a horrid draw for this tournament, with the Dutch, French and Russians on tap, in that order. Expectations are blissfully low, for which we are eternally grateful.

Euro 2044 – Review.

The lads burst out of the gate against the Dutch, claiming an early goal…only to have it waived off by the UEFA mafia. The Dutch proceeded to snatch two goals, only for us to fight back and draw level…and then blow it late. We lose the opener, 3-2. It is a “fair” 3 points for the Dutch, who dominated the match. But I cannot help but feel frustrated at the manner in which we capitulated after dragging ourselves back into the match.

Against the French, we were clearly the underdog and overmatched on paper. But we did ourselves proud in a 2-nil loss. I would not dare suggest that we “deserved” more from the match. But we did. Kind of.

Against our former tyrannical overlords, we tried to **** the bed. We really did, gifting them an early, 2-goal advantage.

All was going to plan in the early stages.

But in the 44th minute, the match turned on a dime as the pinkos were reduced to 10 men, and we began to turn the screw. 3 second half goals followed, in the midst of intense pressure, leading to a 3-2 win and some measure of satisfaction, despite our early exit from the tournament.

This was not our year. Of course, it never was going to be.

Now, our attention turns fully to our preparations for the World Cup in two years’ time.

Group Stage Tables: Groups A-C | Groups D-F

The Lord of Chaos ruled in the knockout rounds, with the likes of Lars Knudsen’s Denmark and Nikola Dovedan’s Austria gleefully wreaking havoc.

In the end, Ivan Juric’s Italy claimed the title with a 3-nil win over 10-man Denmark.

Euro 2044: Overview | Knockout Rounds

June/July 2044.

Our annual youth intake preview? The less said the better. We need a steady influx of young talent to ensure the Crusaders’ future.

Our unbeaten domestic run continues, inching ever closer to what would be the 10-year mark in October.

August 2044.

We have much to be thankful for as the European qualifying rounds conclude. Dinamo Tbilisi knock off Celtic, 4-2. Dila Gori beat Mikel Arteta’s Sheffield United on penalties. And Dinamo Batumi claim a 2-nil win away to Vinicius Junior’s Real Zaragoza.

As a result, 6 Georgian clubs will be competing in the Group Stage of their respective European competitions: Dinamo Tbilisi, Lokomotivi Tbilisi and Duruji Kvareli in the Champions League, Saburtalo in the Europa League; and, Dila Gori and Dinamo Batumi in the Europa Conference League.

The first year in which Georgia has 6 clubs competing in Europe? It’s also the first year we place 6 teams into their respective Group Stages.

We continue to rumble onwards domestically, as we approach the 10-year unbeaten mark.

Ironically, at the very moment Georgian football is ascendant and our domestic rivals are locked in an arms race, we are purposefully weakening our squad to cast aside foreign talent.

September 2044 – Nations League.

I swear, if I’ve explained the concept of the Nations League to Shaw once, I’ve explained it a dozen times. He played in it, for England. But he still can’t wrap his head around the system.

We’re on the verge of an embarrassing Matchday 1 loss away to Sweden, when Tvildiani takes matters into his own hands, from more than 30 yards, to draw us level. Inspired, Gelashvili finds one of his own mere moments later, to give us a 2-1 win. Iashvili‘s penalty save earlier is what kept us in the match — a match we were controlling, but could not seize control of — if you know what I mean.

A more prosaic 3-2 win over Scotland followed in Tbilisi — comforting, like a warm blanket on a cold winter’s night.

September 2044.

Returning from the international break, the 2nd XI claim our 18th straight Erovnuli Liga title with a mind-numbing 2-1 win away to Mertskhali.

We celebrate with wins in our first Group Stage matches — 5-1 over Andriy Shevchenko’s Valencia, then 4-1 away to Mariano Soso’s Hertha. I’m troubled that we continue to leak goals. Yet, we are rolling behind Atle Hovring (who has hit 38 goals this year, in 28 appearances).

As expected, our youth academy graduating class left much to be desired. The silver lining? Nika Koberidze, a pacey forward with an eye for goal.

Oliveira and Jaba Kukhalashvili are the best of the rest, which isn’t saying much even if the Brazilian-Georgian dual national could grow into a contributing member of the squad.

Of course, if Oliveira elects to pay for Brazil he will be shunned mercilessly.

October 2044 – Nations League.

We may be finding our groove with the Crusaders — a 4-1 win over Slovakia is followed by a 3-1 win over Sweden. Two matches. Two comprehensive wins. Six points.

The media narrative is focused on bias, given our selection of 15 Duruji Kvareli players for the current window — 17, if you count two signings who have yet to arrive. Our third-string keeper (Gigiadze) is the only player who has not played for Duruji Kvareli.

Call it bias if you like, but we’ve all but wrapped up the Group title and — with it — promotion back to the top tier. So I don’t think complaining is the right move, fellas.

October 2044.

The 2nd XI are handed the responsibility. 359 matches unbeaten. 1 match shy of a ten-year unbeaten run.

The 1st XI need to prepare for the trip to Bordeaux. The 2nd XI has been a bit shaky this year, at times — our youth and inexperience nearly allowing our domestic rivals a measure of hope.

Falling at this — the final hurdle — would be a kick square in the ****. It is not an option.

But the lads do us proud. A straightforward 3-nil win away to Torpedo Kutaisi. 360 matches, unbeaten.

It is inevitable that we will fall, eventually. With the arms race well underway at other Georgian clubs, it is only a matter of time before we slip.

But not today.

The 1st XI follow that up with a 4-nil win away to Bordeaux, putting us on the verge of the knockout rounds once again.

November 2044 – Nations League.

The quest for a perfect Nations League campaign sees us smash Slovakia 4-nil, with a debut goal for Gedenidze — the seventeen year-old Monaco phenom who will join Duruji Kvareli in January 2036.

A young, rotated squad closes out the campaign with a 1-nil loss in Scotland. We should have done better.

But we promote back to the top tier. A fitting run as we prepare for the World Cup qualifying campaign that is set to begin.

November 2044.

Bordeaux? Thanks for playing. 5-nil.

Valencia? I would forgive you for thinking they’d be made of much sterner stuff. And, they were. Even after Hovring put us ahead after a mere 24 seconds, the Spaniards refused to go down easy. Yet a 4-2 win makes it 5 wins from 5.

The Erovnuli Liga campaign wraps with a ritualistic curb-stomping of a Mertskhali XI. Tired legs, but only 2 matches remain — one for each XI — a chance to finish yet another campaign with one loss in all competitions, the 2nd leg against Liverpool

December 2044 – Season Review.

The 2nd XI claim our 13th straight Davit Kipiani Cup title, with a straightforward 2-nil win over Dinamo Batumi.

Against ze Germans, the 1st XI close out the campaign with a confident performance — yet, we drop 2 points in a scoreless draw after Hovring smashes a late penalty against the post, and we waste numerous chances. We still win our Group and will head into the knockout rounds as a seeded team.

We finish the campaign with our lowest goal difference since 2032 — a mere +117, after we conceded a whopping 18 goals. A statistical dip is not unexpected given that our opponents are improving while we have sold off many of our prized assets to focus on Georgian nationals.

The question in my mind being whether we will see improvement next year as our young players develop.

Goals for 2045:  Make a run in the Champions League knockout rounds, while continuing to develop Georgian players for the national team. Qualify for the 2046 World Cup.

Squad | Erovnuli Liga | Transfers

Finances | Income | Expenditure

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 Duruji Subsequent ThreadSave is explained here.  Just need to catch up? Each installment in Levan “Goose” Akhobadze’s attempt to take over the football world, starting from the Georgian Regional Leagues, can be accessed through the Duruji Subsequent ThreadSave Archive.

You can also join Seattle Red in his dedicated DtG discord channel, to discuss any and all things related to his saves, tactics and anything else under the sun.

4 thoughts on “The Phoenix Must Burn To Emerge”

    1. True, but it’s also the natural, logical result of me choosing to dismantle an all-conquering, CL-winning squad in order to focus on Georgian players. What a ridiculously fun match, though 🤣

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