The first blog on football in Gibraltar, up since March 2010
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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):
Gibraltar lost their first UEFA match at the Victoria Stadium 4-1 tonight to the Faroe Islands, and the stark truth is that it could have been worse.
Roy Chipolina had put Gibraltar ahead, but a double from Christian Holst, alongside goals from Joan Simun Edmundsson and Hallur Hansson ensured that Lars Olsen’s team recorded their largest ever official victory.
Had it not been for a missed penalty by the Faroes, as well as a number of spurned opportunities in the first half, Gibraltar could have been at the end of a much more humiliating scoreline. Bula’s men afforded the Faroes too much room in the first half especially, and although they could do little about the first two goals conceded, they will still undoubtedly be disappointed in their team performance. The addition of a second striker in Adam Priestley at half time at least helped the attacking side of Gibraltar somewhat, but it didn’t lead to many opportunities to make the score more respectable.
Wednesday night sees an even more difficult encounter, against Estonia. Whilst the return of Scott Wiseman and Liam Walker will no doubt help Gibraltar, they will have to perform much better as a team if they hope to gain a credible result against the Baltic nation.
Gibraltar’s footballing story, which has received coverage across the world in recent months, was the subject of a feature in Brazilian newspaper Lancenet.
The original article, which can be viewed here, has also been kindly translated by Brazilian journalist, and Sky Sports correspondent Paulo Freitas. It includes quotes from Gibraltar Chronicle journalist John Shephard.
“ Get to know Gibraltar, the newest European national team
A small peninsula in Southern Spain under English control will play their first official competition, the 2016 European Qualifiers,
A small peninsula in Southern Spain, with a population of 30,000 people, will try to qualify for the 2016 European Championship, which will take place in France. The place called Gibraltar, a small piece of land under British control since 1713.
It was recognized by UEFA only May last year and although it’s not affiliated to FIFA, Gibraltar’s national team are in Group D, they will face Georgia and traditional teams such as Germany, Ireland, Poland and Scotland.
Allen Bula, the Gibraltar manager celebrated: “We are finally here, it might sound a bit surreal but it’s the reality, being able to play against Germany is one of the best things that could have happened to us, everyone will keep an eye on us.”
The new member of UEFA was involved in a curious event during the Qualifiers draw, Gibraltar were drawn in the same group as Spain, but due to the Spanish history of conflicts with the peninsula, UEFA decided to move the new national team (Gibraltar) to another group.
John Shepard, editor of the ‘Gibraltar Chronicle’ explained: “There wouldn’t have been any problem, people from both sides of the border have good relations here, the problems are caused mainly by the politicians.”
Gibraltar didn’t do poorly in their first official game, in November 2013 they tied 0-0 with Slovakia, a team that played the 2010 World Cup. The team will face the Faroes Islands on Saturday, and Estonia next Wednesday, both on official FIFA dates.
The manager [Allen Bula] said: “We have to show Europe that we deserve to be here, it will be a tough job but I hope we can get some points.”
With the word
Editor of the Gibraltar Chronicle (GIB)
We mix technique with strength
Although our league is amateur, we have a team with good players, we love Brazilian football and we try to mix technique with the strength of English style. I hope the visibility our football we have now will help the teams attract sponsors, Gibraltar will have a big challenge from now on.
With the word
Professor of International Politics
Gibraltar is the gate of the Mediterranean
You just need to look at the map to find out about the strategic importance of Gibraltar, the Mediterranean is the commercial heart of Europe and that means to the British that they have to keep controlling its gate. Spain, on the other hand, want to take Gilbaltar again because of this commercial route and thus control the flow of ships into the Mediterranean.
Population: 29,431 people
Área: 6.8 Km²
Currency: British pound
Spain ceded the control of Gibraltar to the UK for a non-determined period, through the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713.
When Francisco Franco ruled Spain between 1939 and 1976, the land access to the peninsula was closed, it was only opened again in 1985.
Voting took place twice, in 1967 and 2002, to determine the sovereign of Gibraltar. The population chose to remain under British control.
You can follow Paulo on Twitter, via @cynegeticus
Gibraltar will start their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign with a home game against Poland on September 7 2014.
The fixtures, announced by UEFA, see Gibraltar’s 10 games spread out over thirteen months. The campaign ends with a home game against Scotland in October 2015.
Sunday 7th September 2014: Home vs Poland (20:45 KO)
Saturday 11th October 2014 Away vs Republic of Ireland (18:00 KO)
Tuesday 14th October 2014 Home vs Georgia (20:45 KO)
Friday 14th November 2014 Away vs Germany (20:45 KO)
Sunday 29th March 2015 Away vs Scotland (18:00 KO)
Saturday 13th June 2015 Home vs Germany (20:45 KO)
Friday 4th September 2015 Home vs Republic of Ireland (20:45 KO)
Monday 7th September 2015 Away vs Poland (20:45 KO)
Thursday 8th October 2015 Away vs Georgia (18:00 KO)
Sunday 11th October 2015 Home vs Scotland (20:45 KO)
In Gibraltar’s first campaign as a full member of UEFA, Allen Bula’s team have drawn Germany, Republic of Ireland, Poland, Scotland and Georgia in Group D.
The draw, held in Nice, sees Gibraltar face the likes of Mesut Ozil, Robbie Keane, Robert Lewandowski, Steven Fletcher and Guram Kashia in their first campaign.
By drawing Scotland and Republic of Ireland, at least four of Gibraltar’s games are guaranteed to be on Sky Sports, with the rest also likely to be televised in Europe thanks to the ‘Week of Football’ concept.
Fixtures will be released later on today.
Members of the GFA have travelled to Nice, ahead of Sunday’s qualifying draw for the 2016 UEFA European Championships. The draw, held in the French city of Nice, will see which five teams Gibraltar will face between September 2014 and October 2015.
The pots, of which one team from each is drawn into a group, are determined by coefficient, hence Gibraltar’s expected position at the bottom of Pot 6. As a result, apart from the obvious restrictions regarding Spain, Gibraltar are guaranteed to draw at least one top nation in their group.
The setting of the draw is also notable, as Nice was where Gibraltar started their adventure as provisional members of UEFA, in the Futsal qualifiers against France, Montenegro and San Marino.
The draw is live on Sky Sports News, from 11am Gibraltar time.
After Tuesday’s announcement of the Gibraltar squads for the Faroe Islands and Estonia friendlies, four players have withdrawn from the selection.
Goalkeeper Kevin De Los Santos, midfielder’s Tyson Ruiz and Liam Clarke, as well as striker George Cabrera, have all pulled out from the squad. Whilst Ruiz and Clarke have withdrawn due to injury, and Cabrera for personal reason, De Los Santos has taken the extra step of asking that he isn’t considered for future Gibraltar squads. The Manchester 62 keeper, who was part of Gibraltar’s 2007 Island Games winning squad, came out of retirement last year, and is widely considered to be one of Gibraltar’s best ever goalkeepers. Despite this though, he has only been a third choice keeper in the last couple of squads, which may have forced his hand to essentially retire from international duty.
As a result of this, midfielder’s Daniel Duarte and Anthony Hernandez, of Lincoln and Cadiz CF respectively, alongside Lincoln striker John Paul Duarte have been promoted to the main squad. Whilst both Duarte’s were in the squad for the Estonia anyway, 19 year old Hernandez was on standy for both games. The Cadiz youth midfielder scored in the 3-0 victory against the Faroe Islands back in 2011, on what was his debut as a 16 year old.
National manager Allen Bula this morning announced his squad for the upcoming friendlies against the Faroe Islands and Estonia, with six players based outside of the Rock called up.
Recently retired Danny Higginbotham, who agreed to play these two games before fully hanging up his boots, alongside Wycombe’s Reece Styche and Wrexham’s David Artell, both uncapped, are in the squads for both games, whilst Will Britt of Southampton, Bnei Yehuda’s Liam Walker and Preston’s Scott Wiseman are available for the Estonia games only.
The inclusion of three new uncapped, recently naturalised players will undoubtedly cause debate, but if they put in a performance as good as Higginbotham, Wiseman and Adam Priestley did in the 0-0 draw vs Slovakia, complaints will surely drop fairly quietly.
Squad for the Faroes game:
This morning, a new video and website were produced for the upcoming Europa Point Stadium, set for completion in 2016.
The video, which is 13 minutes long, features interviews with members of the GFA, the national team, the team behind the architectural side of the stadium, and Chief Minister Fabian Picardo. It also gives us brief glimpses as to what the stadium may look like, through clips where the designers of the ground are using modelling software to design the ground.
By the looks of things, the new ground will, as expected, have four stands instead of the two at the Victoria, much in line with most modern football grounds in Europe. It will also contain restaurants, alongside other amenities to serve the community, and could host concerts ranging from the annual Jazz Festival to international music acts. One potential use of the ground could be for the Gibraltar Music Festival, which in 2016 would be in its fifth year. There are brief mentions of other sports perhaps being able to use the ground as well, which could potentially be a relief to sports such as cricket and rugby, whose facilities on the Rock are severely limited.
A new website is also in construction, and will likely be managed in a similar way to the Team 54 campaign website, which was used in the run up to the UEFA vote in May 2013.