Scotland vs Georgia Glasgow, 24/03/07
This exciting Unofficial Football World Championships title match sees current champions Georgia travel to Glasgow’s Hampden Park to take on all-time UFWC champions Scotland. The match is also a vital Euro 2008 qualifier. Scotland currently top Group B with nine points, while Georgia have only three points – but the improving Georgians have proved they will be no pushovers.
The match will be Alex McLeish’s first in charge of the Scottish side, following Walter Smith’s decision to return to club football with Rangers. McLeish will face off against former Bayer Leverkusen boss Klaus Toppmoller, who has vastly improved Georgia’s recent fortunes. Georgia defeated Uruguay and Turkey in their last two games. Scotland lost their last match 2-0 to Ukraine, but had previously beaten France 1-0.
McLeish will be without injured Everton striker James McFadden, suspended Celtic defender Steven Pressley, and Manchester United midfielder Darren Fletcher, who is both injured and suspended. Toppmoller, meanwhile, can recall his three most influential players – AC Milan stopper Kakha Kaladze, who has recovered from a serious head injury, Schalke midfielder Levan Kobiashivili, and AZ Alkmaar striker Shota Arveladze.
Former Rangers striker Arveladze has scored 23 goals this season, and last week helped AZ knock Newcastle United out of the UEFA Cup. Arveladze won seven trophies under Alex McLeish at Rangers. ‘He is a manager – he can manage the team,’ he perceptively said of the new Scotland boss this week. Of Toppmoller, Arveladze said, ‘I’ve been saying for the last ten years that we needed a foreign coach. Toppmoller is an experienced coach, who knows how to organise a team, and knows what he wants. It is still early days, but the signs are positive.’
Georgia are also likely to include former Rangers flop Zurab Khizanishvili, who is currently reviving his career at Blackburn Rovers, and Gogita Gogua, the highly-rated 23-year-old who missed out on a move to Hearts in January when the SFA rejected his work permit appeal. ‘This is a chance for me to prove I was good enough to play in Scotland,’ he says.
Should Scotland win, and become Unofficial Football World Champions, they will defend their title four days later against official world champions Italy. This potential ‘unification’ match between unofficial and official champions could see Italy crowned ‘undisputed champions’.
Seven nations have previously had claim to the title of Undisputed Football World Champions, having held both the official World Cup and unofficial UFWC title simultaneously. Italy were the first side to achieve this feat, winning the World Cup in 1938, and winning the UFWC title in 1939. Italy, Germany, Brazil, Argentina, and France have all been undisputed football world champions twice, and Uruguay and England have both had the honour once.
If Georgia retain their title, they will go on to defend it against the Faroe Islands, and will then play Lithuania.