Ireland and Georgia are quite familiar with one another.
Saturday’s match will be the eighth competitive match they have contested since 2008 and it is doubtful whether any two European nations have been drawn against each other so frequently in recent history.
It is even more doubtful that any team has done more favours for a direct rival than Georgia have done for Ireland. Georgia have played a huge role in Ireland making the play-offs of every group they have been drawn in together so far and Irish fans will be hoping they will do so again this year.
They really are a sound bunch of lads.
Georgia 1-0 Scotland 2015
After collecting only one point from a potential six against Scotland, Ireland’s Euro 2016 hopes were on the rocks.
It seemed highly likely that Ireland would be looking on as Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England all enjoyed themselves in France as qualification entered the final straits. That was until Scotland made the long trip to Tbilisi in September.
Valeri Qazaishvilli’s 37th-minute strike was enough to sink the Scots and the whole dynamic of the group was turned on its head. Ireland beat Gibraltar later that day to leapfrog Scotland in the group.
Four days later, the Georgians were kind enough to let Jeff Hendrick slalom through their defence and provide Jon Walters with the simplest of tap-ins as Ireland bagged a hugely important 1-0 win.
Scotland’s defeat to Germany on the same day meant that Ireland were now four points clear of their neighbours, having been two points behind just four days previous. Ireland would go on to finish three points ahead of the Scots in the group. Had Scotland managed a win in Tbilisi, they would have qualified in Ireland’s place on the head-to-head rule.
Wales 1-1 Georgia 2016
Since Georgia actually had the indecency of taking points off Ireland in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, their point in Cardiff is often overlooked in the annals of great Georgian favours.
However, had Georgia not managed to battle for a point in Wales, Ireland’s famous night in Cardiff would have never happened. Wales were sluggish in qualifying for the World Cup in Russia, drawing five games in-a-row and falling well off the pace. One of those draws was at home to Georgia after Gareth Bale had given them a 10th-minute lead.
Everything appeared to be going swimmingly and it seemed as though Wales would cruise to a routine victory.
However, after half time Georgia were a different beast and utterly dominated the Welsh. They equalised through Tornike Okriashvili 10 minutes into the second half and spurned several chances to win the game late on.
It meant that Ireland were within touching distance of Wales on the last day of fixtures and that James McClean’s famous strike would not be in vain.
Georgia 0-0 Denmark 2019
Since qualification for Euro 2020 is still very much ongoing, the full effects of this valuable draw are obviously not yet known. However, it has left Ireland in a favourable position.
Ireland’s late equalisers against Denmark and Switzerland, coupled with Denmark’s draw in Georgia, have left them two points clear of the Danes in qualifying.
With Ireland, Switzerland and Denmark all having to play each other in the next month, the qualification picture is set to change rather drastically before it reaches its conclusion.
Yet, Denmark’s slip up in Georgia has given Ireland some margin for error. A win in Tbilisi on Saturday would give Ireland a huge edge in the group, especially if Denmark fail to beat Switzerland on the same day.
With a home game against Denmark still to come, Ireland currently hold all the aces thanks, in no small part, to Georgia’s exploits against the Danes.
Ireland 2-1 Georgia 2009
Having generously foregone home advantage against Ireland and allowed Ireland to beat them in Germany, Georgia travelled to Ireland with revenge on their minds.
Under Giovanni Trapattoni, Ireland had made steady progress in their 2010 World Cup qualifiers, but a first-minute goal from Aleksandre Iashvili in Dublin in February 2009 threatened to derail Ireland’s campaign.
Ireland toiled against the Georgians who, for some reason, actually seemed intent on causing damage to Ireland’s campaign.
They must have seen sense though, and they relented to allow Ireland turn defeat into victory. A bizarre penalty was given against Georgia despite no Irish players appealing and Robbie Keane duly dispatched from the spot.
Georgia were then kind enough to allow Keane to complete the turnaround when he headed home virtually unmarked from six yards out. The victory was instrumental in Ireland qualifying for the World Cup play-offs and we all know how well that turned out.