Preview: Georgia Under-21s vs. Israel Under-21s

Preview: Georgia Under-21s vs. Israel Under-21s

Two quarter-final debutants at the Under-21 Euro 2023 Championships prepare for an intriguing clash on Saturday evening, as Georgia Under-21s meet Israel Under-21s at the Boris Paichadze Stadium.

The Crusaders remarkably topped Group A to progress to the last eight of their home tournament, while the Young Chosen Team bagged second place in Group C behind England.

Making waves at international level is not limited to Georgia’s senior stars, as the Under-21 crop – who previously tried and failed 14 times to make it to the Euros finals – can still dream of continental stardom after an unexpected unbeaten group-stage run.

Many had written Ramaz Svanadze’s men off when glancing at the calibre of opposition they faced in Group A – the Netherlands, Belgium and 2021 runners-up Portugal – but a tally of five points from nine on offer saw Georgia finish as top dogs, one point better off than the latter nation.

A 1-1 draw versus the Netherlands on matchday three was sufficient to see them through to their maiden knockout appearance, as Zuriko Davitashvili broke the deadlock before Kenneth Taylor restored parity for Jong Oranje six minutes into first-half injury time, but a steadfast Georgian backline otherwise quelled 25 shots from the Dutch to send them packing.

Now unbeaten in six successive matches across all competitions and scoring once in each of their last seven games, Georgia have proven more than capable of holding their own without Serie A MVP Khvicha Kvaratskhelia – who turned down the chance to go for Euro Under-21 glory – and the time is nigh for other breakthrough stars to etch their name into the history books.

A daunting clash with England or reunion with Portugal will be on the cards in the semi-finals if Georgia can come up trumps on Saturday evening, but their fellow trailblazers Israel harbour similar ambitions after sneaking into the quarters against the odds.

Promoting a few players to the Under-21s after the Under-19s lost their continental showpiece match to England last year, Israel’s fledgling continental experience was on full display during their meeting with the Czech Republic, who arguably went into their Group C finale as favourites.

Defeat to England and a draw with Germany – albeit a praiseworthy one – left the Young Chosen Team on the brink of a third successive group-stage exit, but Guy Luzon’s side kept the Czechs at bay and struck in the 82nd minute through Omri Gandelman to upset the apple cart.

As England rode off into the sunset and holders Germany exited with a whimper, Israel pipped the Czech Republic to second place by a solitary point to qualify for the knockout rounds for the first time in their history, having previously fallen at the first hurdle in 2007 and 2013.

Victory over the Czech Republic snapped a six-game winless sequence for Israel in all competitions, but their final triumph before that miserable run began was a 2-1 success versus Georgia in a September friendly – their second win from three games at Under-21 level against their fellow semi-final hopefuls.

Georgia Under-21s European Under-21 Championship form:

Georgia Under-21s form (all competitions):

Israel Under-21s European Under-21 Championship form:

Israel Under-21s form (all competitions):

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