Georgia coach Klaus Toppmoller is an understandably contented man at the present time, after his young team hit the footballing headlines with an excellent result in UEFA EURO 2008 qualifying and an impressive leap forward in the latest FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking. Speaking exclusively to, the German supremo insisted there was more to come from his side: "There's a wave of passion here in Georgia at the moment!"

The outbreak of enthusiasm was prompted by last week's surprise 2-0 victory over high-flying Scotland in Tbilisi. The Scots arrived on a roll as Group B leaders, having temporarily left reigning world champions Italy and FIFA World Cup runners-up France trailing in their wake, and had conjured up the real spectre of qualifying ignominy for both the Azzurri and Les Bleus.

Faith in youth repaid
However, Georgia's unexpected triumph means the two continental giants can realistically anticipate crossing swords again at next summer's showdown in Austria and Switzerland, whereas the Scots' unsuccessful visit to the Georgian capital could ultimately prove their downfall in the tense qualifying campaign. Sixth-placed Georgia, apparently revelling in their role as kingmakers in the section, saw their chances of a place at EURO 2008 evaporate a long time ago, but recent results have confirmed that a potentially bright future lies ahead.

"Let's not forget we took on the Scots with a 17-year-old goalkeeper [Georgi Makaridze], a 17-year-old striker [Levan Mchedlidze] and a 16-year-old lad in central midfield [Levan Kenia]. Not many people know we won the match with such a youthful line-up," Toppmoller informed, making no secret of his almost paternal affection. "The result spontaneously persuaded thousands out onto the streets to celebrate through the night," the 56-year-old reflected in a voice resonating with undisguised pride. The former Eintracht Frankfurt, VfL Bochum, Bayer Leverkusen and Hamburg SV coach has already achieved iconic status in his adopted homeland for restoring Georgians' faith in their favourite sport.

Huge leap forward in rankings
A glance at the latest FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking provides ample justification for the new-found optimism in this Caucasian nation of five million. Georgia have leapt an impressive 33 places from 104th to 71st, still some way off their best-ever 42nd in September 1998, but a crystal-clear indicator of the upwards trend initiated by Toppmoller. Indeed, the current placing is some 15 rungs above Georgia's long-term average of 83rd.

Naturally, the victory over the 13th-placed Scots largely explains the latest 120-point improvement to a total of 447 ranking points, but the rapid rise is also a tribute to Toppmoller's consistent and productive efforts, as the German focuses on up-and-coming talent and the creation of a new and successful Georgian footballing generation.

Toppmoller targets South Africa
"I'm a lot more than simply a coach here," Toppmoller reveals. The German brought his entire coaching staff with him to Georgia, where he has spent the last three months almost without interruption. "We also coach the U-17, U-19 and U-21 teams, for a very simple reason: we want the players to be properly coached and guided in the right direction." The Kaiserslautern goal-scoring legend repeatedly stresses his belief in the younger generation's potential. "We've uncovered one or two shooting stars, who we'll slowly but surely blood in the senior team over the next few years."

Toppmoller's goal is to fashion a side around key personalities Kakha Kaladze of AC Milan and Schalke 04 dynamo Levan Kobiashvili, although both seasoned performers were absent against Scotland. "It's even more amazing that we still managed to win," Toppmoller concedes. "My team is capable of very good football, provided everyone stays fit," he told, turning his attention to qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. "Obviously, we'll need a bit of luck with the draw, but provided I have all my players at my disposal, I reckon my team are capable of a big surprise!"