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Kakabadze follows the footsteps of his idol

Georgia right-back Otar Kakabadze is enjoying the "excellent atmosphere" in Slovenia ahead of their match with France and dreaming of following in the footsteps of his idol.

Otar Kakabadze has been enjoying the atmosphere at the finals
Otar Kakabadze has been enjoying the atmosphere at the finals ©Sportsfile

One of the undoubted stars in an impressive Georgian opening day performance against Germany was roving right-back Otar Kakabadze, who caught the eye with a blend of defensive solidity and attacking dynamism. He spoke to UEFA.com before Georgia's match against France about the honour of being in Slovenia and his dreams for the future.

UEFA.com: At the start of qualifying, did you think you would be here now?

Otar Kakabadze: In the end it was 'veni, vidi, vici' ['we came, we saw, we conquered']. We hoped, but never thought it was realistic because there were two long rounds of qualifying. But we fought, and every time we played we thought about a win. We realised a dream getting here.

UEFA.com: How have you found the experience, from qualifying to this point?

Kakabadze: It has been an amazing experience. We played in front of a Georgian record crowd of 12,000 people in the elite round in Tbilisi – that incredible atmosphere has inspired us even more to play for our people. Now to be here in Slovenia is a great honour, and it is interesting to play against great teams in a tournament like this one. We feel no real pressure. We feel very good to be here, and the atmosphere is excellent – you really know you are at a European Championship. It is very enjoyable.

UEFA.com: Has it been a difficult journey for you to reach the Georgian team?

Kakabadze: Yes, it has been a difficult journey for me and all the players to get selected for our national team. It is a great honour to represent my country and it is the result of a lot of hard work.

UEFA.com: Do you have a Georgian football idol that you want to emulate?

Kakabadze: David Kipiani is my idol and role model. He was a great midfield playmaker for Dinamo Tbilisi who won the Cup Winners' Cup and was player of the year in the USSR. [The Georgian team interpreter interjects: "Kipiani was an elegant player, and many people think Kakabadze plays in a similar elegant style. He started out as a midfielder, like Kipiani."]

UEFA.com: Do you think one day you could achieve what Kipiani achieved?

Kakabadze: I am always thinking about this. It is my dream. My ambition is to play professional football at the highest level I can, and hopefully represent Georgia's full national team.

UEFA.com: When this tournament is over, what is next for Otar Kakabadze?

Kakabadze: After this? Training, training and still more training! At the moment I play for the Dinamo Tbilisi reserve team, so for now it is just hard work until I can eventually move up.

UEFA.com: Bringing you back to Monday's match, will you attack France like you did Germany?

Kakabadze: It is a very important game for us, like a final. We will play for a win, whether that comes through attacking skill or defensive steel. We will fight.

UEFA.com: You mentioned you had something to say to Georgia's many fans ...

Kakabadze: Today in our country we celebrated St George's day, one of the biggest religious days for our nation. I would like to congratulate our people – and especially my family and friends, who got me here.