Georgian Encounters
International
5 October 2017

Georgian Encounters

There is no room for error as Chris Coleman's side head into the final two 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, but having targetted two victories, Wales will need to achieve a first against Georgia in Tbilisi on Friday. 

Georgia v Wales

2018 FIFA World Cup - European Qualifiers 

  • Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena, Tbilisi
  • Friday, 6 October, KO 17:00
  • Live coverage: Sky Sports, S4C, BBC Radio Wales/Cymru
  • Follow updates on FA Wales Twitter & Facebook

In fact, having drawn against Georgia at the Cardiff City Stadium earlier in the campaign, Wales are still searching for their first win against the nation after four previous meetings. 

Chris Coleman had firmly established himself as a regular in the Swansea City starting line-up by the time that Georgia played their first fixture as an independent football nation in 1990, but within a few years the defender would become very aware of this emerging entity as the first of Wales' three defeats against the side occurred in November 1994.

Coleman and his assistant Kit Symons were part of a strong Wales squad that travelled to the former Soviet outpost, but returned embarrassed by what would become a concerning trend against the side over the best part of the next two decades.

On a night in Tbilisi memorable for all the wrong reasons, Georgia ran out 5-0 winners against Mike Smith's Wales team. “I'll never forget that game,” said Coleman when announcing his squad recently. “We didn't know what to expect really going into the game. We didn't know much about the Georgian players but we certainly did after ten of fifteen minutes when the completely ran over us. They were too good for us, and we weren't a good team at the time for different reasons. We got slapped about in that game, they scored five but they could have scored ten.”

Former Wales captain Vinnie Jones was shown an early red card when Wales met Georgia for a second time in June 1995.

It was a defeat that arrived during a torrid period of international football for Wales, and brought Mike Smith's second spell in charge of the side to an end.

Results failed to improve for years to come, and while progress finally became apparent at the turn of the Millennium as Wales narrowly missed out on qualification for UEFA EURO 2004, the resulting slide was compounded by the third defeat to Georgia that was witnessed by a small crowd of just over 6,000 at the Liberty Stadium in 2008.

John Toshack's side were on course to earn a 1-1 draw in the friendly international until Beka Gotsiridze scored a late winner for the visitors.

“The goals we conceded were shocking, particularly the second,” explained a dejected Toshack at full-time. “You've got indecision there, that the Georgia player (Gotsiridze) should be allowed to nip in and score was schoolboy stuff. I was quite pleased at half-time, thought maybe we deserved a goal more, but the second half was a completely different story.

"We looked to be in trouble right from the off and you could almost see it coming. We produced very little up front and we were being out-numbered in vital areas. The game looked to be petering out until that very poor goal we conceded in injury time. I am concerned by a lot of the things I saw. I did not enjoy watching those goals go in. The centre of our defence gave us a lot of problems, it is becoming a major problem.” 

The two teams did not meet again until October 2016, and a 1-1 draw earned Georgia their first Group D point in 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying.

Gareth Bale handed Wales the perfect start when headed home a Joe Ledley corner to open the scoring after just 10 minutes, but Georgia showed their credentials early in the second half and made things difficult for Coleman's side. Tornike Okriashvili scored a deserved equaliser for the visitors just before the hour mark, and while both sides had chances to win before the final whistle, Georgia held on to claim their first point of the campaign.

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“It's not the end of the world,” explained a dejected Chris Coleman at the final whistle. “We looked fatigued, we looked disjointed.

"I'm not used to being disappointed at the end of 90 minutes with this lot. I'd have been amazed if we'd gone through the campaign without a blip and without somebody giving you a little tap on the shoulder to just remind you how difficult it is at this level, and we got one today for sure.

"I've got more confidence in this team than any other I've managed. If anybody can do it, it's this team. We've grown accustomed to me being sat here super proud. I'm still proud but I know they can do a bit better. I won't be too critical of them because a whole nation is proud of them, but we've got to keep pushing them because they want that anyway.”