Duruji Kvareli / Georgia – 2048 Open Thread
December 2047 / January 2048 – Odds & Ends, Transfer News.
On the march towards what would be our 3rd straight Champions League title, we draw Wim De Decker’s Arsenal, a team we have very little (recent) history with.
We’re joined in the Champions League knockout rounds by both Saburtalo and Dinamo Tbilisi, who will face Manchester United and Mario Hermoso’s Roma, respectively.
Torpedo Kutaisi are still alive in the Europa League, while Dila Gori is the last remaining side in the Europa Conference League after Mertskhali finished 4th in their Group (while also suffering relegation).
As expected, the awards season is relatively painful this year. Atle Hovring is denied his 6th straight Ballon d’Or and World Player of the Year, following his switch to attacking playmaker. It was a strategic shift and it paid off for the team…but his personal accolades took a hit. (My plans are to push him back wide again for the 2048 campaign.)
As previously noted, we have three arrivals during the Winter 2047-48 transfer window.
Joseph Bull ($10.25 million; Celtic) who I initially planned to retrain as a libero. And while he is enough of a prospect to make Darren Fletcher horny at the prospect of deploying him in our back line, I’ve changed my mind. He will step directly into the 1st XI as our attacking playmaker, to push Hovring back wide. (Tsnobiladze drops to to the 2nd XI, and will feature from the bench for the 1st XI.)
Of course, we had initially Henk van Eijck ($19.5M; Lille) to play as an attacking playmaker. But, we’re dropping him into the midfield as a mezzala in our 2nd XI. (The midfield shuffle also includes Maxim Prokhorenko joining Sapa as the ball-winning midfielder in our 1st XI, with Giorgi Aladashvili dropping to the 2nd XI.)
At the end of the day, we have improved our 1st and 2nd XIs, and will field a 24-man squad over the next year — 25 once Saba “the Hut” Jabua arrives in late March. We also moved various Georgian players out on loan or permanent deals, to ensure that they get what they need — playing time.
Television rights remain stagnant, sitting at $218 million per team for the third year in a row. I would complain but no one is listening.
We see the impact in the transfer window spending recap, where Georgian clubs were only outspent by the Premier League and Serie A, with Saburtalo the biggest spender of all…
…of course, the Georgian transfer window is open until March 31st, so this running total will certainly change.
February 2048 – The One Where Goose Hates Life.
More than 2 weeks before we kick off at the Emirates, disaster.
There will be no Euro 2048 for Otar, Georgia’s most best shadow striker. A kick in the gut, to say the least.
Fortunately, Tsnobiladze is ready to step right back into the 1st XI as a right inverted winger for Duruji Kvareli, with Hovring playing from the left. Shaw tries to tell me that we’ll be fine, because this is one position where we had one “extra” player in the squad…but we both know that isn’t true.
And, even if it was, it doesn’t replace the Otar-shaped hole in the Georgian XI.
February/March 2048 – Champions League, First Knockout Round.
The pre-season friendlies have already left their mark. I hate everything and everyone.
All eyes are on Tsnobiladze, to see how he will react to his demotion and sudden restoration to the side. (As an aside, Twitter is abuzz with rumors from a Saburtalo-affiliated blogger, to the effect that Irakli put a bounty out on Jikia during the tour of Hungary. El Chiringuito has invited him on, so the rumors do not appear likely to disappear any time soon.)
Whatever the truth may be, Tsnobiladze takes the opportunity given to him with both hands. Within less than 3 minutes, he fires us into the lead at the Emirates, assisted by Bull.
We strike again early, but Arsenal fight back in a very un-Arsenal-like way. We will take a 2-2 draw back to the Goose.
The domestic campaign kicks off with our 17th consecutive Super Cup win, but our focus is on the second leg.
Arsenal come out strong, but we hit back twice in quick succession to end their dreams. 2-1 on the night, 4-3 on aggregate — the Premier League leaders are done for. Have a nice flight, fellas.
Domestically, we are clear favorites to claim our 22nd straight Erovnuli Liga title, at 1-16 odds. But…truly, who would bet against us?
We also place 8 players in the media’s pre-season Dream XI, which sees Atle Hovring omitted for the second consecutive year. Unconscionable.
The end of the beginning stage of the campaign sees the long-awaited arrival of Jabua, with the Crusaders playing 2 friendlies, ahead of France 2048.
Jikia‘s absence is felt, even if we largely perform to expectations. Nikia Koberidze (currently on loan at Tenerife) makes the most of the opportunity afforded to him, claiming a brace on his debut, the first coming 10 minutes after stepping onto the pitch in a 4-1 win over Bosnia & Herzegovina.
A convincing 4-1 win over Northern Ireland follows, at which point we can only wait for the Euros draw, to occur in between the matches comprising our two-legged tie with the Virus.
April 2048 – Champions League, Quarterfinals.
The Winter 2047/48 transfer window closes with a record-setting $401 million spent by Georgian clubs, led by Saburtalo‘s $149 million.
We are by far the better side in the first leg at the Goose, but a familiar face stands tall to deny us for more than 80 minutes — Amilios “Amy” Nikolaou. Hovring manages to find the back of the net in the 82nd minute, however, to ensure we are not left empty-handed. 1-nil does not do us justice, but it is all we have.
With our weekend free, the GFF have planned an elaborate party at headquarters in Tbilisi for the Euros draw. As a first seed, the anticipation is high. Surrounded by the Georgian social media elite, we await our fate.
We are drawn into Group F, with Alex Kas’ Germany (a brutal second seed), Turkey, and Slovakia. Not the best draw we could have had, but far from the worst in that we avoided Italy as a third seed.
In Madrid (which Shaw keeps referring to as “the city by the bay” for some reason), the Virus claim first blood, but we manage to hit back almost immediately through Tsnobiladze and Sapa to reclaim our aggregate lead and the away-goals advantage. The hosts are playing a suicidally-high press, with the opening 30 minutes demonstrating both the high risk and reward on offer.
But our hosts do not relent, and pull back a goal before the half. All to play for.
A quick goal for the Virus levels the tie at 3 on aggregate. We must match their aggression, adjusting our tactics subtly. Real Madrid fail to clear a corner in the 52nd minute, allowing Bull to recycle possession and find Sapa breaking through the lines to restore our narrow advantage, 4-3 on aggregate.
The game opens up, both sides creating chances. The minutes tick past, neither side finding the back of the net. The whistle blows at 3-3, 4-3 on aggregate. We will return to the semifinals, as urCristiano is left shirtless in the technical area, demonstrating to Ahl how he should have shaped his body when a half-chance fell to him in the late stages.
The opposition, standing in our way on the path to the Puskas Arena? None other than Dinamo Tbilisi, who defeated Manchester United 2-nil on aggregate, and feature the competition’s top goalscorer (Beka Bekhtadze) and leading goalkeeper (Bairon Yepes).
Though the gap has narrowed between the clubs, an all-Georgian European semifinal is a monumental occasion. We cannot look past Dinamo, even if we will be favored — and rightly so. We have not lost to Dinamo since the 2031 Davit Kipiani Cup final, and have only lost to them twice during my tenure.
April/May 2048 – Champions League, Semifinals.
Dinamo Tbilisi‘s plan is clear from the first whistle at the Goose: defend en masse, survive the onslaught and hope to claim a smash-and-grab victory in the 2nd leg.
To our guests’ credit, we are utterly stifled for 50 minutes.
Well, 53 minutes to be precise. Having conceded a free kick just outside the box, wide in the left-hand channel, a mental lapse leaves Bull with an uncontested header at the back post, after Tvildiani flights in a perfect cross. 1-nil. Gogokhia finds our 2nd in the 78th, putting paid to Dinamo‘s plan to hit us back in Tbilisi.
It is anything but pretty. But pretty doesn’t count at this stage. 2-nil means that Dinamo will have to attack next week in Tbilisi.
The patterns do not change, however. We strike first in the 13th minute, Hovring tapping home at the back post to make it 3-nil on aggregate. Party’s over, Dinamo.
Much to their credit, Dinamo refuse to roll over even after we score a second, eventually scoring a late goal to draw level on the night…before finding an injury time goal to bring narrow things even further. But it is too little, too late, notwithstanding our casual nonchalance. We advance, 4-3 on aggregate despite losing on the night.
Julian Nagelsmann’s Bayern await in the final, after they defeated Nicolo Barella’s Hertha 1-nil (agg).
A chance for ze Germans to exact some revenge for last year’s elimination on penalties at the quarterfinal stage, the fourth time we have eliminated them in the knockout rounds over the last decade.
May 2048 – Champions League, Final.
As offended as I am, both Shaw and I know that we’d rather be the underdogs anyways. Let the media talk up Nagelsmann’s men. The reality is that we did not play well in last year’s quarterfinals, and arguably got lucky to advance through the lottery of a shootout.
The opening minutes are nervy. We need to settle ourselves. A throw in, deep in German territory is just what the doctor ordered…Khasenov heaves one to the back stick, where it evades a crush of players, falling to Hovring to prod home. First blood to Duruji.
Mere minutes later, we counter at pace and an attempted through ball from Bull is deflected into the path of Prokhorenko, who has a free look from just inside the 18. 2-nil. Echoes of the 2047 final, when United fell to pieces in spectacular fashion.
Shaw is shouting fashion critiques at Nagelsmann, who refuses to acknowledge the Englishman’s presence. “Damn, Julian! Back at it again with the white leather pants?!” (Frankly, the humidity must be unbearable in those pants. But what do I know.)
The game tightens up through halftime, at which point the chances have been few and far between. But we’ve taken ours, and therein lies the rub.
Shaw emerges from the tunnel in lederhosen, shouting at the Bayern supporters behind our bench in what he perceives to be a German accent. (In point of fact, it is an Irish accent. Confusion thus abounds on both sides of the exchange.)
We know that, inevitably, Nagelsmann‘s men will press us. And, eventually, a passage of play will come where we need to bend but not break. We need to take our chances when they come to put this game to bed.
In the 49th minute, we counter. Hovring plays Sapa through, and “the Polish Scholes” plays an unselfish, brilliant square ball for Tsnobiladze. He taps home with ease, sending our supporters into raptures and Shaw into a leprechaun dance.
We can taste it now. Victory. We have been ruthless for 50 minutes, and can bury ze Germans with a fourth.
They remain undeterred, and push forward. Wave after wave of Bavarian passion, the footballing equivalent of a piping-hot pretzel served with a delicious hefeweizen. Yet, we devour them. Our appetite insatiable.
In the 67th minute, we send on Gospodinov for the tiring Sapa. Time is running out for ze Germans.
In the 72nd, van Eijck replaces Bull. A brilliant shift from the young Scotsman, who has played like a warrior poet on the night. Still, time runs on.
In the 77th, we send on Aladashvili for Prokhorenko. Shore up the midfield. Don’t give them a way back into the match now, lads.
The frustration is plain on Nagelsmann‘s face. 70 percent possession, with nothing to show for it other than 16 speculative shots. Iashvili has been a giant in goal. And, unlike Julian’s men, we have been ruthless when given a look at goal. Shaw no longer seeks to disparage Nagelsmann‘s attire, and has instead resorted to shouting “tick tock, tick tock” endlessly and unblinking, like a manic, sleep-deprived horologist.
The fourth official signals that there will be 3 minutes of injury time. You might as well give them 30. It would not make any difference, beyond rendering Shaw more hoarse than he already will be.
We are champions of Europe for the third year running. 3-nil. Ruthless, incisive football. Sexy football.
Bayern are humbled. Yet again.
It is our fifth Champions League title, adding to our triumphs in 2040, 2042, 2046 and 2047. And while it may not have been the epic beat-down of last year, it is emphatic and undeniable in its own right. 3-nil. On the grandest stage in club football.
Arveladze is named Defender of the Tournament, with 3 Duruji Kvareli players named to the Champions League Dream XI — Khasenov, Aladashvili and Sapa. They are joined by 2 players from Dinamo Tbilisi — Yepes and Bakhtadze — the first time players from another Georgian team have been so honored.
June 2048 – European Review.
The Champions League is rather thoroughly documented above, as we claimed our 3rd straight title.
In the Europa League, Torpedo Kutaisi defeated Ilzat Akhmetov’s Bologna, 1-nil.
You read that correctly. Torpedo Kutaisi are the first Georgian side (other than Duruji Kvareli) to claim a European title since Dinamo Tbilisi‘s 1981 Cup Winners Cup title. This follows on the heels of Torpedo Kutaisi‘s quarterfinal appearance in the 2046/47 Europa Conference League.
Georgian football is hot, lads. So hot, that even Vinnie wants in on the action, joining 2046/47 Europa Conference League winners Lokomotivi Tbilisi after getting sacked by Watford.
Speaking of the Europa Conference League, Thomas Delaney’s Milan beat Rafael Leao’s Norwich, 2-1.
In the active leagues, Gennaro Gattuso’s Betis won their 1st La Liga title since 1935; Gianluca “Johnny Manc” Mancini’s Manchester City reclaimed the Premier League title; PSG reclaimed the Ligue 1 title; Kylian Mbappe’s Inter won their sixty Serie A title in 7 years; and, Julian Nagelsmann’s Bayern did Bayern things in Germany.
As noted above, Georgian football continues to grow in leaps and bounds. After 3 solid years in continental competitions, Erovnuli Liga claims claimed 2 of the 3 trophies on offer. Accordingly, as expected, Georgia remains 2nd in the coefficients table, within spitting distance of England for the 2049/50 campaign.
As impressive as that is, in terms of reputation the Erovnuli Liga surprisingly does not improve, staying 6th behind the usual “Big 5.”
Of course, Duruji Kvareli continues to be the most reputable club in the world and sit atop the club coefficients table. Meanwhile, other Georgian clubs continue to rise up the coefficient table, with Saburtalo and Dinamo Tbilisi reaching the top 15, sitting above an impressive array of clubs . While their reputations continue to lag behind, the coefficient rise will help immeasurably with seeding in Europe…which should have a knock-on effect with reputation.
I have to think the Erovnuli Liga is on the verge of breaking into the “top 5” leagues, in terms of reputation. I really thought this was going to be the year it happened.
Euro 2048 – Group Stage.
The build up to France 2048 feels truncated, given that our exploits in the Champions League meant most of the playing and technical staff were late to arrive at the Crusaders’ pre-tournament camp outside of Tbilisi.
The lads seem more than up for it, though, as we throttle Denmark and Ghana in the pre-tournament friendlies, each game a 4-nil drubbing.
That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Our tactics are solid. And, 22 of the players in our 23-man squad came through Duruji Kvareli — the only exception being our third-string keeper, Nikoloz Gigiadze, who has literally no hope of earning his first cap this summer. (While Duruji Kvareli has not utilized my Nagelsmann-inspired PM Haaienvuist for the last two years, it has remained our backup, “trained” tactic after being our primary tactic for years.)
There was some thought that Jikia might make it back in time to be a part of the squad. The goods news is that he has returned to training, but is still several weeks away from truly returning to the pitch in any meaningful capacity.
Slovakia is a favorable opponent for our 1st match. In theory. In reality, we control the match from the first whistle but struggle to find the back of the net, until substitute Zviad Gedenidze cannons one home in the 61st with his first touch of the match. We find another before conceding against the run of play to set up a nervy finish, but in the end a 2-1 win is all that matters. 3 points are 3 points.
On paper, ze Germans should prove to be a far bigger ask. Yet Tvilidiani gives us hope with an unstoppable free kick in the 37th minute, and we manage to hold on despite a never-ending, increasingly-frantic German onslaught. 1-nil, a victory for the ages — not to mention further proof of concept regarding our tactics, PM Haaienvuist.
Having secured qualification, we rotate the squad modestly for the match against Turkey. In the end, goals for Tvildiani (on for an injured Gvazava), Tsnobiladze and Gogokhia saw us claim all 3 points, once again, the final scoreline, 3-1.
**** my life.
Euro 2048 – Second Round.
Having rotated the squad against Turkey, we are largely fit to face Spain – save for a tiring Tvildiani, who got virtually no rest following Gvazava’s injury (which will keep him out until at least the end of July).
Refusing to sit back and defend, we look for the opener…and find it in the 15th minute, as Arveladze rises to head home a near-post corner from Tsnobiladze. This just got tasty, lads.
We’re playing well in the early stages, trying to find a second. Tabukashvili going close, followed by Bokhashvili just missing in the 27th, mere moments later.
Goals change games. It is that simple. Our failure to capitalize is punished in the 32nd minute, as Javier Goni makes a brilliant, winding run before tucking home from close range. Back in the balance at 1 apiece. Bastard.
At the half, the match remains precariously balanced. Both sides are creating chances, albeit low-percentage chances.
Tsnobiladze heads off the bar in the 49th minute — a grand chance, wasted. We bring Aladashvili on for Gospodinov a few minutes later; Stoyan is tiring, and Giorgi’s long throws could unlock the stubborn Spanish defense.
In the 70th minute, Gedenidze is sent on for Bokhashvili, with Aladashivli dropping to the defensive midfield.
Nine minutes later, Spain take the lead, catching us out in a barrage of counterattacks, running from one end of the pitch to the other. We throw caution to the wind, pushing forward even more aggressively…
…but it is not enough. The Football Gods are nothing if not sadistic ****s.
The World Cup kicks off in 711 days. We have work to do.
Euro 2048 – Review.
Shaw has been rendered mute by our exit from the Euros at the hands of Spain. He has vowed (in writing, at least), not to speak until we exact our revenge. When asked what would suffice, he just stalked away in a huff.
Regardless of how one defines “revenge,” we cannot wait for World Cup qualifying to begin. The Nations League will not serve as a distraction for long.
At least the French didn’t win. The ****s.
Tvildiani earns a spot on the Euros Dream XI substitutes’ bench. Which is an insult, if anything.
Otar Jikia returns to the squad in late July, playing from the bench and in our 2nd XI. A welcome return, which he punctuates with several goals against domestic opposition. Only time will tell if he will make a full recovery.
The all-Georgian UEFA Super Cup is a glorious sight to behold. The UEFA mafia seem to be in disbelief all night, unwilling to believe their eyes. Drink it up, you ****s, like a lukewarm glass of chacha and RedBull — which just so happens to be the ‘official’ beverage of this year’s Cup.
It is my 1,400th match in charge of Duruji Kvareli. That’s a career in any league. The lads run riot to mark the occasion — while Torpedo Kutaisi have grown immeasurably in the last few years, they have no answer to the questions we pose in the early stages of a comprehensive 3-nil win.
By the time the draw for the Group Stage rolls around, it dawns on me that we will actually have 5 Georgian teams in the mix this year, thanks to Torpedo‘s Europa League win. 5 Georgian teams, 2 of which are 1st seeds. Surreal.
Of the 5, Vincent Kompany’s Lokomotivi Tbilisi have the worst draw, while the rest of us can breath relatively easy. We will face Merih Demiral’s Barcelona, Molde and Wolfsburg.
500 is an arbitrary number, for sure. But one I am eager to hit as another mark of our dominance. (Our unbeaten runs in the GFF Super Cup and Davit Kipiani Cup date back to February and April 2032, respectively.)
September 2048 – Nations League.
Somehow, we have offended the Football Gods.
I, for one, blame Luke Shaw’s back hair. But that is neither here nor there. Nor does the assignment of blame change the fact that we’re drawn against Spain, Benjamin Duda’s Germany, and Josip Brekalo’s Croatia in the Nations League.
The first match is a depression-inducing, scoreless draw against Spain in Tbilisi. We manage a much better performance against the Croatians, running out 3-nil winners in Zagreb. European champions, my left nut.
September 2048 – Tactical Musings.
Several years ago, we adjusted our tactics — reverting to PM Draugr in an attempt to liberate our libero, and prove the concept at the highest level of club football. Suffice to say that we’ve done so, after 3 straight Champions League titles and the extension of our Erovnuli Liga record undefeated streak, to 500 matches. We have nothing left to prove at the club level.
During this time, however, we have continued to play my Nagelsmann-inspired PM Haaienvuist with the Crusaders — a more solid tactic when playing as an underdog due to the defensive shape — given our relative strength vis-a-vis the giants of world football.
With the World Cup on the horizon, I continue to believe that Georgia’s best chance to make a run in the knockout rounds comes with PM Haaienvuist. Accordingly, we will revert back to the 532/235 shape, which might look “conservative” to the naked eye, but is in fact highly-aggressive.
The first matches? A 3-nil annhilation of Wolfsburg at the Edin Dzeko Arena in Wolf…city, followed by a one-sided 3-nil win over Dinamo Tbilisi at the Goose.
There is no question Duruji Kvareli can play this system, and it is remained in our arsenal all along. We will simply reshuffle the XIs and use the next 22 months to ensure that our players are ready for the World Cup.
Case in point? Vano Gogokhia, who has been playing on our right wing, but had been training as an attacking central midfielder to provide coverage. He’s a beast in any of the three roles across the two tactics — inverted winger, attacking playmaker or shadow striker — the issue now is simply ensuring his fluency as a shadow striker.
My only hesitation is that this change will de-emphasize Tvildiani, our libero, in the possession and transition phases of play. As much as it hurts to do it…
The Crusaders have an international break to remember — curb-stomping ze Germans 3-nil before a wild 5-3 win at the Bernabeu. Historic. We sit on the verge of a return to the Nations League semifinals.
Duruji Kvareli continue their strong run of form, capped by a 4-nil win over Merih Demiral’s Barcelona. It’s all happening.
November/December 2048 – Season Review.
Shaw and I retire early from the end-of-year celebration. I’m getting too old for an all-nighter at Giglo’s like in the old days. I’d rather have someone to go home to…
…other than Luke. He’s more Golden Retriever than person, away from the game. Which isn’t a bad thing. But there’s only so much fetch one man can play, no matter how enthusiastic Shaw is each time he sees a tennis ball.
We finish the campaign in strong form, having clamed every title on offer over the course of the year. The capstone? A 4-nil win over Molde, in which Amrell executed a near-perfect rabona to find Tsnobiladze for our 4th.
While there are challenges ahead of us at the club level, my thoughts return — day after day — to the World Cup. Brazil 2050. The Crusaders will be ready, having claimed our Nations League Group title with a 2-nil win over ze Germans after a disappointing 2-1 loss to the recently-crowned European champions, Croatia.
My parents used to tell me that ‘patience is a virtue.’ But I am not and never have been a patient man.
Goals for 2049: Win our 4th straight Champions League title. Qualify for the World Cup…with style.
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.