The first blog on football in Gibraltar, up since March 2010
In the last week or so, both Lincoln Red Imps and College Europa have embarked on maiden European campaigns. While both teams exited at the first stage, they can hold their heads high in their home performances especially.
For Lincoln, their first leg against Faroese side HB was at the Victoria, and a packed Victoria Stadium saw the Red Imps earn a 1-1 draw. Joseph Chipolina’s penalty was cancelled out by Levi Hanssen, but it was a good platform for which to travel to Torshavn.
Unfortunately, the first 45 minutes in Torshavn were all but terminal for Lincoln. An abysmal performance saw HB run out 3-0 up going into the break, through goals by Hanssen, Trondur Jensen and Joan Simun Edmundsson, and the game looked over for Lincoln. The introduction of star striker Lee Casciaro at half time seemed to breath life into Lincoln, who came back with goals from George Cabrera and John Paul Duarte, and had chances to level the tie on the night. Unfortunately though they were caught on the counter, and a second Hanssen goal, alongside a good volley from Frodi Benjaminsen saw the Red Imps lose 5-2, and 6-3 on aggregate.
For College, they suffered a baptism of fire in the Europa League. Quick goals by Manuel Sutter and Pascal Schurpf saw the Dolphins 2-0 down after just eight minutes. They managed to steady the ship though, and only one more goal was conceded, as Schurpf got his second in the 72nd minute.
The return leg at the Victoria was a cagier affair, with Vaduz playing comfortably in the knowledge they were all but through. While College rarely threatened to score, they were defensively strong, restricting the chances that the Liechtensteiner outfit had. Lee Coombes sending off changed that though, and sadly for College, Vaduz scored in the 89th minute through Nicolas Hasler.
While the four games in the last eight days or so only saw one draw, both College and Lincoln on the whole put in good displays against more experienced opposition. Gibraltar also got off the mark in terms of coefficient points thanks to Lincoln’s draw, and had College held on, they would have leapfrogged San Marino into 53rd place, earning an extra Europa League spot in the process.
That could happen next year though, with San Marino losing 0.166 of their 0.499 points. A couple of positive results, and Gibraltar can look forward to seeing two teams in the Europa League in coming seasons.
Today’s UEFA Champions League and Europa League qualifying draws saw Lincoln Red Imps and College Europa draw HB Torshavn and FC Vaduz respectively.
Lincoln, who won last season’s league, host Faroese team HB on the 1st/2nd of July, with the return leg being a week later in Torshavn. HB, who won the 2013 Effodeildin by five points, contain four players who were in the squad for the Faroes 4-1 friendly win versus Gibraltar back in March, including Frodi Benjaminsen who captains both club and country. With the Faroese league running through the summer, HB will have the advantage of being fully match fit, as their season is currently 14 games old, with HB currently second in the league.
The reward for the winners of this game is a match against one time European Cup finalists FK Partizan (they lost 2-1 to Real Madrid in the 1966 final).
College Europa, as Gibraltar’s sole entrant in the Europa League after finishing runners up in the Rock Cup, travel to Liechtenstein to face Vaduz, who play in the Swiss league due to Liechtenstein’s lack of a league system. Vaduz will play in the Swiss Super League this season after winning the second division, and have won the Liechtenstein Cup (which provides the country with its sole European representative) 18 times in the last 20 years. The Liechtensteiner’s will be in the closing stages of their pre-season, with the Swiss Super League starting on the 19th July. Recent Gibraltarian representation in Liechtenstein were the national under 16 team, who went there for a UEFA development tournament back in April.
Should College advance past Vaduz, they would face Ruch Chorzow of Poland in the next round. The 14 time Polish champions came 3rd in last seasons Ekstraklasa behind Legia Warsaw and Lech Poznan.
The order of home and away fixtures can be reversed if both teams agree to it, and this will be announced at some point in the next day or so.
The Champions League games are on the 1st/2nd of July and 8th/9th July, with the Europa League games being on the 3rd and 10th of July. Ticket details are scheduled to be announced tomorrow by the GFA.
A 66th minute strike by Kyle Casciaro was enough to give Gibraltar their first ever win as UEFA members, in only their fifth official fixture since becoming the 54th member of European football last May.
Gibraltar, off the back of a 1-1 draw away in Estonia, kept up their form from the Tallinn friendly, and when a poor clearance was headed into the box by Joseph Chipolina, Casciaro was on hand to finish off smartly. The result ensures Allen Bula’s team kept up their more than respectable record in official games, which stands at one win, two draws and two defeats.
The win also ensures Gibraltar have yet to lose any of their three games on grass turf, which is something to consider if and when the new stadium is built. Additionally, the last team to beat Gibraltar outside of the Rock is still the Isle of Wight, in the 2011 Island Games that they hosted.
For now, the national team takes a break from action; their next game at the moment is the qualifier vs Poland in September. However, a friendly could be arranged a few days before that game. There is also the chance that the ‘Gibraltar XI’ summer friendlies may also be scheduled, giving fringe players and youngsters a chance to impress Bula ahead of an exciting era of Gibraltarian football.
A debut goal for Jake Gosling ensured Gibraltar earned their second draw in four official UEFA matches, with a 1-1 draw away at Estonia.
Despite a goal from Augsburg defender, and Estonia captain Ragnar Klavan, Gosling, who is currently unattached, scored with 20 minutes to go to ensure Gibraltar got the draw that, on the balance of play, they can say they deserved. Numerous saves from keeper Jordan Perez, alongside a generally strong team performance, ensured the team left Tallinn with some sort of ‘revenge’ after the 2-0 loss to Magnus Pehrsson’s men back in March at the Victoria Stadium.
The result, Gibraltar’s second positive result after the draw with Slovakia in Faro last year, gives the team a lot to look forward to ahead of the friendly in the Algarve vs Malta on June 4th.
UEFA President Michel Platini will be one of the guests at the 2014 Rock Cup final, between Lincoln and College.
Platini, who is also being accompanied on the trip by Deputy Secretary General Theodore Theodoris, Head of Football Development Jean Francois Domergue, and Head of President’s Office Kevin Lamour, will hand over the trophy to the winner of the final, as well as meet notable footballing figures on the Rock.
Platini’s visit is only a short one, which will involve him flying in and out of Gib on the Saturday, and is customary for a UEFA President to do when a new member is recently, as GFA President Desmond Reoch explained to GBC earlier on.
The interview with Mr Reoch can be viewed here
National manager Allen Bula this morning announced the squads that will be used for Gibraltar’s upcoming friendlies against Estonia (in Tallinn) and Malta (in Faro).
1st caps could be won by a number of players across both squads. In the team for both the games are uncapped players such as Lynx’s Jamie Robba and Tyson Ruiz, Jean-Carlos Garcia and George Cabrera of Lincoln, Manchester 62’s Anthony Bardon and Jake Gosling of English side Gloucester City (on loan from fellow English team Exeter City). For only the Malta game, there are the call ups of uncapped players Erin Barnett of Lions, Manchester 62’s Scott Ballantine, and Louie Barnfather of non-league Evesham, alongside those listed above.
The biggest player not picked in either squad would have to be Lincoln’s Daniel Duarte, with the 34 year old normally a regular in the time. Bula however may be using these two friendlies to try out different players, and knowing Duarte’s abilities very well, he may be giving the Lincoln midfielder a rest for these games. Lee Casciaro is still not fully fit for the national team, but he should be fit well in time of the start of the qualifiers.
The game vs Estonia is on 26th May a the A. Le Coq Arena in Tallinn, whilst on June 4th the team plays Malta in Faro at the Estadio do Algarve.
vs Estonia (20 players chosen):
Goalkeepers: Jordan Perez (Lincoln FC), Jamie Robba (Lynx);
Defenders: Scott Wiseman (Preston North End (England)), Roy Chipolina (Lincoln FC), Ryan Casciaro (Lincoln FC), Jean-Carlos Garcia (Lincoln FC), Joseph Chipolina (Lincoln FC), Jack Sergeant (Manchester 62), Matthew Reoch (Manchester 62), David Artell (Wrexham (Wales));
Midfielders: Liam Walker (Bnei Yehuda (Israel)), Anthony Bardon (Manchester 62), Jeremy Lopez (Manchester 62), Jake Gosling (Exeter City* (England)), Anthony Hernandez (Cadiz CF (Spain)), Tyson Ruiz (Lynx);
Attackers:: Adam Priestley (Farsley AFC (England)), Kyle Casciaro (Lincoln FC), John Paul Duarte (Lincoln FC), George Cabrera (Lincoln FC)
vs Malta (23 players chosen):
Goalkeepers: Jordan Perez (Lincoln FC), Jamie Robba (Lynx), Louie Barnfather (Evesham FC (England));
Defenders: Scott Wiseman (Preston North End (England)), Roy Chipolina (Lincoln FC), Ryan Casciaro (Lincoln FC), Jean-Carlos Garcia (Lincoln FC), Joseph Chipolina (Lincoln FC), Jack Sergeant (Manchester 62), Matt Reoch (Manchester 62), David Artell (Wrexham (Wales)), Erin Barnett (Lions Gibraltar);
Midfielders: Liam Walker (Bnei Yehuda (Israel)), Anthony Bardon (Manchester 62), Jeremy Lopez (Manchester 62), Jake Gosling (Exeter City* (England)), Anthony Hernandez (Cadiz CF (Spain)), Tyson Ruiz (Lynx), Scott Ballantine (Manchester 62);
Attackers: Adam Priestley (Farsley AFC (England)), Kyle Casciaro (Lincoln FC), John Paul Duarte (Lincoln FC), George Cabrera (Lincoln FC)
*Jake Gosling is currently on loan at Gloucester City, from parent club Exeter City.
Gibraltar Under 19’s battled out to a fair 2-2 draw with their Hungarian counterparts in front of a packed main stand at the Victoria Stadium
Goals from Scott Ballantine and Anthony Hernandez saw Gib go 2-0 up, but Hungary fought back through goals from Murai Mark and a 25 yarder from Spandler Csaba ensured that a draw would be the final outcome. Lendzser Bence also saw red for Hungary after receiving two bookings.
The crowd, which was between 1000 and 1500 in number, definitely got value from their £5 admission, and the result shows promising signs for the future of the national team.
Gibraltar will play ‘host’ to Malta in a friendly at the Estadio do Algarve on June 4th this year.
The news, originally reported in Maltese press yesterday as being on June 6th, was confirmed today by the GFA as being on June 4th. The game will be ideal preparation for not only the European qualifiers, but also getting used to the grass pitch used at the Faro based ground Gib will use for the home games in Group D.
Further friendlies could be announced before the game vs Poland in September, with a date just days before the first qualifier being available
Wednesday’s game vs Estonia, the second of a double header for Allen Bula’s team, required a vastly improved performance to that of Saturday’s 4-1 loss to the Faroes. Despite the end score, the performance by Gib was much better, so much so that the team could feel aggrieved not to have drawn the game.
The return to midfield of Liam Walker was key in improving the passing game of Gibraltar, whilst a more attacking role allowed Joseph Chipolina the freedom to bomb forward. In fact it was Joseph who was only denied a goal by a sharp save by Estonian keeper Sergei Pareiko, which would have been a fair reward for Gibraltar’s play. The second Estonian goal was a classic case of a team pushing for an equaliser but being caught out, but nevertheless the performance put in was more encouraging that what had been offered up on Saturday.
In his 450th, and final game in football, Danny Higginbotham put in a typically assured performance, and deserved the reception he got when he was substituted near the end. Very few players start their senior career in an away game at Barnsley, before ending it at the Victoria Stadium. After almost 17 years as a player though, Danny now looks set to join the Gibraltar coaching staff, using his important knowledge and experience of football at the highest level to help Gibraltar as they head on towards the European Championship qualifiers.
For Gibraltar, the next international game is not until May 26, a return friendly vs Estonia in Tallinn. By then, more players may have declared their eligibility for the national team, and more domestic players would have pushed forward their own cases for inclusion, what with the season concluding just before the squad will be announced.
With not too many friendly opportunities left until September’s qualifier vs Poland, there isn’t a lot of time for the Gibraltar squad to prepare for games of such magnitude. However, if Wednesday’s game said anything, is that progress is indeed being made; something that some may have understandably doubted on Saturday night.
Ahead of Wednesday’s game vs Estonia, blogger Angelo Palmeri, editor-in-chief of Rumori di Spogliatoio, an English language website on Estonian football, wrote an article looking at the Estonian team, as well as predicted XI to face Gib in the friendly.
The ‘Swedish Era’ of Estonian football
A short dive into the Estonian coaching past
Estonia has undergone through many foreign rulers in their country history: German, Danish, Swedish and lately Russians. However, upon being asked what was probably the ‘best period’, they would certainly point the finger at their Swedish neighbours who allowed the national sentiment to grow and develop almost freely.
In football, Estonia has known many foreign coaches: in the pre-war period (from 1923 till 1939) the Hungarian school reached also the Baltic coasts of the Gulf of Finland as 4 coaches out of 6 were coming from the land of the Magyars. In between, the Austrian Fritz Kerr and the legendary Albert Vollrat.
Vollrat became English Champion at Arsenal in 1933 as assistant coach of Herbert Chapman. After the war, he coached at Spartak Moscow winning two Soviet Union Cups. Bernhard Rein and Elmar Saar closed the first period of the Estonian football until the country was occupied by the USSR.
With restored independence (1991), Estonia had to re-establish their own football, including a new national team that would compete in Europe.
The very first job was assigned to Uno Piir who collected two wins in 19 games and was followed by Roman Ubakivi, the only coach of the post-war period who has never won a game: 24 matches and just one draw for his tenure. From 1996 (when the job was assigned to the Icelandic Teitur Thordarsson) to 2013, Estonia has had mostly foreign coaches on the bench: to the ‘Icelandic Period’ (1996-1999) followed a short tenure by Tarmo Rüütli (1999-2000) before the ‘Dutch Age’ seeing Arno Pijpers first (2000-2004) and Jelle Goes later (2004-2007) taking the job at the ‘Sinisärgid’ (‘blue jerseys’). Another short tenure for Danish Viggo Jensen (from August to November 2007) before the national team was firmly re-assigned to Tarmo Rüütli. Rüütli, a former footballer in the Estonian SSR, has been the most successful coach at the helm of the national team, let alone the most durable: 5 years and 10 months, from February 2008 until December 2013; 20 wins, 13 draws and 33 losses his tally over 66 games acknowledging him the most successful winning rate ever. The ‘pearl’ of his tenure was the second place at the Euro 2012 group stage qualifiers (behind Cesare Prandelli’s Italy) that meant a play-off tie against Giovanni Trapattoni’s Ireland.
New year, new era
Now it is this time again when the national team is entrusted to a foreigner, Swedish Magnus Pehrsson.
A past as footballer at Djurgarden IF (and a short spell at Bradford City in England – more information about him here: http://www.rumodispo.com/eesti-koondis/2014/1/19/rds-extra-koondis-magnus-pehrsson-the-forgotten-icon ) and a short experience as a coach. It is the latter which made more than one highbrow rise in the tiny Baltic Republic, will he be suitable for the job?
Introduced back in December 2013, soon after the Estonian FA confirmed that Rüütli contract was not going to be extended, Magnus has not yet had the time to meet the full squad as the game against Gibraltar will be his official debut. The squad will gather in Gibraltar two days ahead of the game with a bulk travelling from different European locations and a part of it from Tallinn.
Pehrsson declared to the press he would have been analysing the Estonian national team game in the meantime with the aim to try and implement the new philosophy embraced by the FA at all levels: the ball possession.
Nothing revolutionary, unless for the foreseeable formation. Maybe.
Looking at the list of the 20-man squad that will travel to the Iberia peninsula, Pehrsson stuck to the most recent tradition, probably guided by his assistant coach, Janno Kivisild. Kivisild is a long-term Estonian FA serving coach and he has been the same assistant coach under Tarmo Rüütli, certainly, he has guided Pehrsson in his first period of acclimatization with the Estonian football environment. However, the original list, has undergone several changes due to injuries. Estonia is bringing a squad of 17 players only to face Gibraltar. Let’s have a look at the possible starting XI and the subs.
The goalkeeper role shall not present any surprise: Sergei Pareiko is the immovable starter of the XI, with Mihkel Aksaluas safe secondon the bench. There would be also the young Marko Meerits, however he has been sidelined by a knee injury.
Moving to the line in front of the FC Volga (Russia) goalkeeper, the Captain, Ragnar Klavan will guide a 4-man defence. His career is developing successfully in Germany at FC Augsburg and he just scored his first goal during the weekend against Hannover. He is the first Estonian ever to score a goal in one of the Top5 leagues in Europe (England, Spain, Italy, Germany and France).
Ragnar’s partner in central defence will most probably be Igor Morozov. The two were forming a quite solid partnership before Morozov picked up a serious injury in August 2013 against Latvia. He has recently returned on the pitch (he plays in Hungary at Debrecen VSC) and might be given a chance to resume his international streak. The full-back positions will quite likely be occupied by Enar Jääger as right one and Tajio Teniste as left. Of the two, Teniste should be the most offensive one posing a question of vulnerability on that side.
Having privileged a 4-4-2 formation with diamond when back at Djurgarden IF and Aalborg, we could assume Magnus Pehrsson would test his credo also in the very first game of his tenure. Until September, when the Euro 2016 campaign will start, he has time to experiment something different from the traditional 4-4-2 (having one of the two strikers dropping to support the midfield) of his predecessor.
In a 4-man midfield line, it is quite likely he will field the Estonian Player of the Year 2013 Kostantin ‘Kostja’ Vassilijev, one of the most beloved footballers of the national team side and absolute protagonist of the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign. ‘Kostja’ is the cutting edge of the ‘Eesti Koondis’. Endowed with the best feet of the national XI, he can either serve an assist with surgical precision or finish with cool blood when getting into the spaces dug by a striker. Deadly set-pieces distance (ask Arsenal’s Szecszny who visited Tallinn with Poland two years ago) and bullet-like shots from distance are part of his repertoire. He shall have Sergei Mośnikov covering him and his long-time friend Dmitri ‘Dima’ Kruglov on the left side. The latter can be as effective in the offensive phase as in the defensive one, especially if he will have to support the less effective Teniste. Kruglov plays at Levadia, the Estonian defending Champions.
The place on the right side of the diamond shall be taken by Sander Puri who moved to England at York City FC, League Two. Due to several injuries, he has had little playing time in Yorkshire. He has been back on the bench for the Citizens. Sander is a work dog and a die-hard flanker.
The forward line will not star Henri Anier (in Scotland at Motherwell FC) Sergei Zenjov (in Ukraine at Karpaty Lviv) and Henrik Ojamaa.
The latter has picked up an injury during last weekend’s game and did not travel to Gibraltar at the very last moment. Ojamaa, among the three strikers, is still the one looking for his first goal with the national team after being rather productive at his clubs (Motherwell especially).
Magnus Pehrsson did not call another striker and decided to make go with the likes of Rimo Hunt and Tarmo Kink. This situation might lead him to field a 4-5-1 including the young Ilja Antonov (midfield engine at Levadia) in a 5-man midfield line.
In that case, the lone striker place shall go to Rimo Hunt, who has recently moved abroad (Kazakhstan) after being elected 2013 Best Player of the Estonian top flight (http://www.rumodispo.com/interviews/hunt-best-player-2013 ). He has collected just 4 caps since his first call in June. It is a sign that coaching staff is still considering him.
Rimo was a prolific scorer in season 2013 helping Levadia to clinch their 8th title thanks to his 22 goals. Physically solid, he is endowed with a good touch and is able to exploit long balls sent into spaces.
Tarmo Kink might have a chance on a 4-4-2 formation instead. The former Middlesbrough striker recently moved to a drop-zone Hungarian top-flight club (Kaposvar Rakoczi) after he had been training with Nõmme Kalju. He was on loan to Hungarian side Györ ETO as his playing rights belonged to the Italian Serie B side Varese. The club ended his contract in January upon the player’s request. Normally Tarmo would be Ojamaa reserve in a 4-4-2 formation when Ojamaa is fielded on the right flank. Kink is quite quick and is endowed with a deadly on-the-run shooting skills (ask Serbia).
Other call-ups and famous exclusions due to injuries
In the defence, the U-21 Karol Mets might be given his second cap everin the second half of the game (he is a regular at most-titled club Flora). Mikk Reintam might compete with Morozov to partnerwith Klavan, however he has not been producing memorable performances in his 10 caps with the ‘Eesti Koondis’. His return to domestic football at Estonian club Nõmme Kalju (2013 runners-up) was quite convincing as he offered a solid performance on Saturday’s debut.
Gert Kams was excluded at the last minute due to injury picked on a cup game in Finland (he plays at SJK in Veikkausliiga). The same happened to Siim Luts who had to give up due to sickness.
Joel Lindpere, right winger and a former teammate of Thierry Henry at New York Red Bulls, has not been called due to injury. He has moved to Czech Republic at the end of January (Banik Ostrava).
Following the exclusion of Aleksander Dmitrijev, Martin Vunk and Henri Anier for injuries, Magnus Pehrsson decided to call Ken Kallaste, left full-back at Nõmme Kalju and son of legendary Risto Kallaste, the flip-throw in father (an interview to Kallaste is available here: http://www.rumodispo.com/interviews/2014/1/19/meeting-risto-kallaste-the-flip-thrown-in-father ).
Another addition from the domestic league is the full back Maksim Podholjuzin, at his first call in the national team. He can play both on the left and the right and he became Estonian Champion last year at Levadia.
By Angelo Palmeri
Angelo is the founder and editor-in-chief of ‘Rumori di Spogliatoio’ (http://www.rumodispo.com/) an English speaking webportal about Estonian Football
More about the Estonian national team here: http://www.rumodispo.com/eesti-koondis/
More about some of the Internationals in the call-ups list: http://www.ohtuleht.ee/546828/from-pareiko-to-liivak-the-untold-story-of-the-estonians-in-italian-football
Full list of call-ups: http://jalgpall.ee/news.php?st=style_fp.css&news_id=6275
Possible lineup’s (Depending on formation used):