Since regaining independence in 1991, Georgia have failed to qualify for a FIFA World Cup™ or UEFA EURO finals. The national team is now setting out to rectify that omission in qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa.

Alexander Iashvili, capped 38 times by his country and on the books at Bundesliga club Karlsruhe, took time out from preparations for Georgia’s meeting with the Republic of Ireland to speak exclusively to about FIFA World Cup qualifying and life in the German top flight. Alexander, you’ve played in Germany since 1997. Do you still feel homesick for Georgia sometimes?
Alexander Iashvili: Yes, quite often. But I can always go back once I finish playing, and I’ve really enjoyed it here so far. I feel good here, and as long as that’s the case, I’ll stay.

At 1.75m, you’re not the most physically imposing player, so how do you manage to stamp your authority on a game?
I think my strengths are in ball control and overall technical ability. I’m hardly the slowest player around with the ball at my feet.

Karlsruhe have just embarked on their second season in the German Bundesliga. What has the team learnt from last season to help you this term?
We know we’re a match for anyone. We’ve proved we can give as good as we get against pretty much anyone else, and we’re capable of beating any other team if we give it 100 per cent. We’re good enough to hold our own in our second Bundesliga season.

You have yet to score in 28 Bundesliga appearances for Karlsruhe. What are your personal goals for 2008/09, and what is the club aiming to achieve?
As a team, we want to make it to 40 points as soon as possible and stay in the league. I personally had plenty of scoring chances last season but failed to put any of them away. It’s the first time I’ve ever gone through a whole season without a goal. I intend to change that in 2008/09.

Turning to the Georgian national team, what do you remember about your first international in 2002?
Not a lot. All I really remember is that it was against Switzerland.

You are now up to 12 goals in 38 appearances for your country. What is the most important goal you’ve scored so far?
They’ve all been important to me, but unfortunately they’ve not helped us hit our targets yet, so I’m hoping the most important of them all is still to come.

Crucial goals will certainly be necessary if Georgia are to break with history and qualify for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa. What does the team still lack?
A team! I think we have exceptionally good individuals, but we’ve not succeeded in coming together as a team yet.

On top of that, Georgia face a stern challenge in Group 8 against Italy, Bulgaria, the Irish, Cyprus and Montenegro. How do you rate your opponents, and what can Georgia achieve?
I see Italy as clear favourites in the group. If we succeed in playing as a team, we have a chance of coming second.