Georgia – Spain: Superb Spain Smash Georgia For Seven (1-7)
An important match marked the beginning of the first international break in 2023/24 for Georgia and Spain, who crossed paths in Group A of the Euro 2024 qualifiers. After an early slip-up against Scotland, the visitors needed to win to get their qualification campaign back on track, and that is just what they did in quite some style.
Tactical analysis and match report by Neel Shelat.
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It has now been over two years since Willy Sagnol took charge of Georgia, who seem to be a nation on the up in the world of football. Much of that must be attributed to the rise of one superstar, but they do seem to have some decent players in various positions to form a competitive side. Nevertheless, they could never have been expected to qualify for the Euros in this group, but early slip-ups from Spain and Norway might have given them a sniff.
The last couple of months have been quite a tumultuous period in Spanish football. The high of their World Cup success was immediately overshadowed by the disgraceful actions of Luis Rubiales, whose behaviour really pointed towards wider issues in the federation. Men’s international Borja Iglesias announced that he would step away from the team until serious changes were made, but the rest of the team have taken a disappointingly distant approach to tackling the problems.
Luis de la Fuente came under fire as well for applauding Rubiales’ speech, but he was quick to take a sidestep when he realized how much trouble the president was in. Now, as many of them so eagerly said, it was time for the team to focus on the on-pitch action, where they needed to get their act together to get their Euro qualifying campaign back on track.
Georgia set out in a 4-4-1-1 formation with Giorgi Mamardashvili’s goal protected by Irakli Azarovi, Guram Kashia, Solomon Kverkveliya and Giorgi Gocholeishvili. Luka Gagnidze joined Giorgi Aburjana in central midfield with Saba Lobzhanidze and dangerman Khvicha Kvaratskhelia on the wings, whilst Otar Kiteishvili was just behind Georges Mikautadze up top.
As is tradition, Spain lined up in a 4-3-3 formation. Unai Simón started in goal behind Dani Carvajal, Robin Le Normand, Aymeric Laporte and José Gayà. Rodri had Gavi and Fabián Ruiz on either side of him in midfield, whilst Marco Asensio and Dani Olmo flanked Álvaro Morata in the front line.
Spain easily play through Georgia’s press
For the most part, Georgia defended in a 4-4-1-1/4-4-2 low block, but they did step up against goal kicks and such situations and attempted a half-hearted press on occasion. Their efforts did not prove successful at all, though, as Spain broke the press without having to break a sweat themselves.
The objective of Georgia’s press never seemed to be to win the ball back but simply to force Spain out wide where their threat would be somewhat limited. So, they adopted a 4-2-3-1 structure with Kiteishvili starting by player-marking Rodri and only going up to press a center-back with the Manchester City midfielder in his covershadow.
Now Georgia were successful in the sense that they prevented the Spanish defenders from finding Rodri immediately, but they did not really manage to do what they set out to. The key to break the press were the visitors’s advanced number eights, who would drop back to receive passes from the defenders and then either supply the attackers themselves or lay it back to Rodri to do so.
13th minute: Spain play through Georgia’s press as Laporte finds Fabián who lays it off to Rodri, who is left free by Kiteishvili stepping out to close down Laporte.
The only good news for Georgia in all this was the fact that the half-hearted nature of their press meant that they always had good numbers back in the shape of the back four and two central midfielders, so they were never completely exposed. So, Spain still had to do something to go from entering the opposition half to creating chances.
Spain’s attacking rotations start dealing the damage
Chance creation is a problem that has long plagued Spain, but it did not prove to be an issue at all in this match. Part of the reason behind that has to be their more fluid attacking structure, where players were allowed to interchange positions a lot more than usual.
In particular, the two number eights were given a good deal of freedom after starting in a quite advanced position. They could drop back to help build up as we saw above, push forward to occupy Georgia’s defenders, or pull out wide and form triangles with the fullbacks and wingers. The fullbacks were also given the license to push forward in the opposition half, so they added to Spain’s attacking threat.
The first goal was simple enough, as it came thanks to Morata getting on the end of an Asensio cross after pulling out to the far post whilst both number eights made runs into the center of the box. The second was an own goal from a Fabián cutback after Olmo and Gayà combined on the left to find him in a dangerous position. Olmo then got a third after Gavi burst forward before finding him on the left, after which he burst through a couple of defenders and fired it in. And it was four by half-time as Morata capitalized on a high turnover with help from Fabián.
Spain were utterly dominant by this point, so much so that they replaced both of their wingers with youngsters Nico Williams and Lamine Yamal, but there was still more to come in the second half. Georgia did pull one back early on, but Morata went on to complete his hat-trick and then Williams got himself on the scoresheet. Yamal finally capped off a historic night where he not only became Spain’s youngest-ever senior appearance-maker, but also their youngest-ever senior goal-scorer.
🎯 Check out the shot map for Spain's 7-1 win in Georgia: 33 shots, 4.07 xG, 12 shots on target.— FotMob (@FotMob) September 8, 2023
They absolutely peppered them. pic.twitter.com/2tIa8dmz0w
And so, Spain completed an absolute rout of Georgia with their second seven-goal scoreline of the last year, with the other unfortunate recipients of such a thrashing being Costa Rica at the World Cup.
This is clearly not a good look for Georgia who were utterly exposed defensively, so they need a big inquest to set things right before facing Norway next. They were poor both tactically and on an individual level, so they will need to fix quite a few things before facing a certain Erling Haaland. In any case, their chances of making it to the upcoming Euros are now slim to non-existent.
Spain, on the other hand, should be pleased with a fantastic attacking performance, albeit against a pretty poor defense. This win places them back into the top two spots of their group as they have also played fewer matches than everybody else, so they look well on course to the Euros as one might expect. A similarly routine win over Cyprus next should cement their position, though they might also want to consider rotating their lineup for that game.
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