FEATURE: With a mix of experienced players and promising talents in their squad, Georgia hope to go all the way and reach the final stage of EHF EURO 2022
Reaching EURO 2022 "a must" for Georgian coach
Georgia have never made it to the final stage of a European or world championship, but with a new and talented generation of handball players, they are counting on a breakthrough in the next few years.
This weekend, the team enters Qualification Phase 1 of the EHF EURO 2022, and the Georgians are determined to have a successful campaign.
In the EHF EURO 2020 Qualifiers, Georgia lost all four games to Italy and Luxembourg, but that was two years ago. Now coach Djordje Rasic is optimistic before the tournament in Malta, where his team will meet Cyprus, Azerbaijan and the home side this weekend.
"We should not have big problems with Malta and Azerbaijan. I have seen Cyprus playing, and I will tell you that the group winner will be determined on 13 January in the match between Georgia any Cyprus. Judging by the team game and individual skills, our team is the favourite," he says.
Second spell for Rasic
The 60-year-old Serb took charge of Georgia not long ago, but this is already his second spell with the team. Rasic also coached Georgia in 2013-14, and was at the helm of Georgia’s youth national team in 2014 and 2018, so he is familiar with both older and younger members of the squad.
In recent years, Georgia have put much effort into the youth championships. The generation born in 1997-98 certainly has talent, which allows Rasic to hope for a bright future for the national team.
In fact, the coach is already looking beyond qualification phase 1.
"In the play-offs, we can face such teams as Kosovo, Faroe Islands, Turkey or Greece, Finland, Italy. We have beaten almost all these teams in recent years, so we obviously can defeat them in the play-offs,” he says.
"And the main qualifying round will start in October 2020, almost two years from now. By that time, players like Teimuraz Orjonikidze, Giorgi Dikhaminjia, Irakli Kbilashvili and some others should make serious progress. So reaching EURO 2022 is a must for us," he concludes.
Mix of youth and experience
Many of Georgia’s promising youngsters have already moved to foreign clubs – for example, Kbilashvili plays for Ukraine’s Odessa, while Orjonikidze is at Hungary’s Ferencvaros.
These individuals indeed seem to have a good future, but at national level the support of experienced players such as 36-year-old goalkeeper Revaz Chanturia or 32-year-old right back Rati Mskhvilidze will be invaluable.
And the veterans also dream of featuring at a major international tournament.
"Our coach says that we should fight for a ticket to the EURO. What can be better than that? In 2022, I will be 36, and it could mark a wonderful finish to my career. And maybe later my son, who is now seven, will continue the dynasty," says Mskhvilidze.
Photo credit: IHF / Bulgarian Handball Federation
TEXT: Sergey Nikolaev/jh
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