They’re the newest nation in UEFA and in a first qualifying campaign have drawn the might of the Germans, along with the Irish, Scots, Poles and Georgians. Daniel Griffin from footballgibraltar gives us the reaction to what stands between the Rock and a Euro place.
Obviously Gibraltar were guaranteed a tough draw regardless of who they were pitted with; such is the fate of every Pot 6 nation. However, I’m not sure, bar maybe having England, that Gibraltar could have asked for a more exciting draw. The opportunity to face a European giant in Germany will be a special occasion, regardless of the end result, whilst the games against Georgia offers our best opportunity to grab points in this campaign. Scotland and Poland are both difficult nations, but at home, Gibraltar could cause a few problems against both teams.
From a personal standpoint, Republic of Ireland was the best draw from Pot 2. Obviously there were weaker teams in the pot, but the opportunity of an away tie versus Martin O’Neill’s team in Dublin will undoubtedly appeal to most Gibraltar fans. Whilst I’d expect the likes of Robbie Keane and Aiden McGeady to be too strong for us at the Aviva Stadium, the return game in Faro could be an interesting match-up.
For this campaign, Gibraltar will play their home games at the Estadio do Algarve in Portugal. This is due to Gibraltar’s primary stadium, the Victoria Stadium, not being up to scratch for qualifying games. Whilst a new arena is being built at Europa Point in Gibraltar, the national team will have to play their ‘home’ games some four hours away by coach.
For Irish fans looking to travel to the game, Faro Airport is a twenty minute drive away from the ground. Both Ryanair and Aer Lingus both fly direct from Dublin. There is a vast variety of hotels in Faro, what with it being a holiday destination, and fans should look forward to a good few days abroad.
Football in Gibraltar is mainly amateur, with an eight team Premier Division and a 12 team Second Division being the main form of senior football on the Rock. Before acceptance into UEFA, the national team was fully comprised of players based locally or in southern Spain, but since becoming a member of the European football body, the Gibraltar FA have allowed naturalised players to be eligible for the national team. Whilst Danny Higginbotham will be retired by the time the qualifiers start, players such as Preston’s Scott Wiseman, Wycombe’s Reece Styche and Wrexham’s Dave Artell all provide professional experience in the team.
However, former Portsmouth midfielder Liam Walker, now at Israeli team Bnei Yehuda, is Gibraltar’s key player, and best chance of threatening the Irish defence. Farsley striker Adam Priestley will also test the back-line with his pace and finishing ability, with the striker boasting a decent record in the English regional leagues.
Prediction for the qualifiers? Realistically, Gibraltar are very unlikely to qualify from their group. However, there are chances for points to be earned, and I’d say finishing 5th would be a good achievement in our first campaign.