Lincoln out to make history tonight

Lincoln Red Imps look to make even more history tonight as they host Danish champions FC Midtjylland, looking to overturn a 1-0 deficit from the first leg in Denmark, and become the first ever Gibraltarian team to make the Third Qualifying Round of the UEFA Champions League.

Should they go through tonight, Lincoln would guarantee at least four more games, as the losers in the Third Round are given a reprieve in the form of the Europa League Playoff round, where they would be two games away from the Group Stages.

Raul Procopio has the luxury of choosing from his preferred first eleven tonight, with Roy Chipolina set to return in defence, but he will be wary of opening up too much in the chase for that elusive goal, as one Midtjylland goal would effectively kill off the tie.

Can Lincoln go even further in their European adventure? The best way to find out tonight is to go down to the Victoria and support your local champions. If not, then the game tonight is being streamed by Jyske Bank, who sponsor Midtjylland

 and have had a long term presence on the Rock. The game can be streamed by clicking on the following link.


Midtjylland vs Lincoln – Preview

Tonight sees Lincoln square up against Danish champions FC Midtjylland knowing that any result away in Denmark would be seen as a major upset for the Red Imps.

Fresh off the 2-1 away victory in Andorra that allowed Lincoln to progress to tonight, Raul Procopio’s side have had little time to prepare for their more illustrious opponents, and will be without defensive leader Roy Chipolina as they look to give themselves even a fighting chance coming into the home leg next Tuesday night.

The Danes have a new manager in the helm for tonight’s game, with former Denmark Under 21 coach Jess Thorup appointed in the past few days to take charge at the team who were only formed in 1999. Despite this, they have European pedigree, most notably when they took Manchester City to penalties in the 2008-09 UEFA Cup qualifying rounds.

For the ‘Wolves’, this is their first ever taste of Champions League football, but despite their team not containing many players with experience in Europe’s top continental competition, they are still massive favourites to overpower a Lincoln side who have perhaps exceeded expectations by getting to the Second Qualifying Round.

There is perhaps little value then in the main betting markets, with Midtjylland being massively odds on to win at home as expected, and even a draw let alone a Lincoln win being priced highly. There are other avenues to look at though if you wish to try and make money off tonight’s game.

Football Gibraltar tips:

Under 3.5 goals – 2.68

Midtjylland -3 – 1.73

What lessons can Europa learn from European campaign?

The fact that Europa FC lost 9-0 to Slovan Bratislava over two legs came as no surprise to anyone – one of the nuances in the first qualifying rounds of European qualifiers is that an unseeded side in the Champions League first qualifying round is likely to get an easier opponent than a team in the Europa League will. However, the 180 minutes played over the course of the last two weeks offered a few key points for Europa to learn ahead of the upcoming season, where they plan to try and challenge the monopoly held over the local game by Lincoln.

Consistency is key within the club

It’s safe to say that consistency and Europa FC do not go hand in hand. Players, managers and other staff have come and gone in what has been one of local football’s quickest conveyor belts. The best example of this would be the home leg against Slovan Bratislava, compared to the home leg against Vaduz last season. Of the 18 man squad named in the Vaduz game, only three players have survived to make the team against Slovan; Matt Cafer, Cristian Toncheff and Aymen Mouelhi. Such a high turnover rate of players does little to help a team gel, with the squad almost starting from scratch each season, and this was evident in the first half at the Victoria, where it felt like 11 strangers gathered together to face a team of professionals who tore them apart.

Unsurprisingly though, a number of new signings have been announced in the last two weeks, including new Head Coaches in David and Dimas Carrasco. If they are still at the club next season, and most of the players currently in pre-season training with Europa actually still belong to the club in 12 months time, that would constitute some progress for a team that has had extra helpings of self inflicted turmoil in recent times.

More local involvement will help them win back some support

Another stark statistic from the squad list in the first leg, and one that did not go unnoticed by the fans who attended the home leg (754 was the official attendance compared to 824 last season against Vaduz) was that there was not a single local player in the eleven that lined up two weeks ago. Compare that to the five who started vs Vaduz (including three current internationals in Jamie Robba, Jamie Bosio and Jamie Coombes) and you can see why people were not as interested in turning up to the Victoria, despite the opposition being of a higher calibre than Santa Coloma were. The ticket prices may have contributed to that too (Lincoln’s cheapest ticket was £5 compared to Europa’s £10, although Europa did offer a children’s ticket which is more than Lincoln did) but in a small place where national pride is massive, retaining some sort of local presence is vital if you want to build a fan base.

While it is true that Lincoln tend to hoover up the best local talent, due to their status in local football as the premier team on the Rock, there is still a lot of talent available that Europa could tap into, and potentially use as cheaper, equally skilled alternatives to some of the foreign players they have imported into their team in recent months. Each team is allowed to have their own approach to transfers, and they should be respected, not hounded for it, but it is fair to say that a club almost entirely full of foreign talent will not win many admirers in Gibraltar.

There’s still a way to go before they catch up with Lincoln

As pointed out in the first paragraph, Europa’s chances of progression were hampered by being paired against far superior, professional opponents in Slovan Bratislava, and nothing about the two games can be a factor when judging the chances Europa have in this season’s Premier Division. However, the Red Imps are still a long way clear of the league’s other representatives, with the gap potentially set to grow further after their victory against Santa Coloma earned them a further six-figure sum to invest back into their day to day running and professionalism.

With Lincoln set to earn around £300,000 more than Europa this season, and Europa in turn making more money than the other eight teams in the league this season from competitions, most predictions for this season would probably have Lincoln winning the league again, with Europa finishing second. The increase to a ten team league makes for a more interesting division, as well as the reintroduction of relegation after a one year absence in order to rebalance the league. Additionally, the recent sale of Lions to Enterprise Insurance CEO Andrew Flowers suddenly makes them a potent threat to the league, with their new owner, previously talked about as making a bid for English team Leeds United, set to turn the team semi-professional and bring in the kind of talent required to challenge for local honours.

There is still a while until the season starts, with most teams currently in the infant stages of their pre-season preparations. The now annual European campaigns are an early opportunity to watch competitive football on the Rock, and should whet people’s excitement levels for what could be one of the most interesting domestic campaigns to date.


Europa FC play their final game of a brief 2015/16 Europa League campaign today as they take on Slovan Bratislava in the First Qualifying Round Second Leg. With Slovan holding a strong 6-0 lead from the first leg in Gibraltar, all Europa have to play for tonight is pride, as well as valuable experience to take into the upcoming domestic season.

The club have already announced changes for after this game; new managers David and Dimas Carrasco will take charge. The brothers have worked in Spain, England and the USA professionally, and will hope to add stability to a team that has been altered too many times in the last 12 months.

It would be expected that Slovan would rotate a few players from the eleven that dismantled Europa, but even so they should prove too much to handle, and are expected to add to their 6-0 aggregate lead so far.

The odds are naturally in favour of Slovan, with the hosts a small 1.015 to win their second leg. A draw for Europa is as high as 21.00, while a monumental shock in the form of a Europa FC win sees odds of 41.00

Whatever the result, Europa can hopefully take a lot out of these last two games, which may stand them in good stead this season.

Football Gibraltar tips:

Slovan Bratislava Highest Scoring Half – 1st half – 2.50

Slovan Bratislava -4.5 – 1.650

Lincoln make history: social media reaction

Last night will go down in the history books of Gibraltarian football, as Lincoln won 2-1 away in Andorra against Santa Coloma to progress to the Champions League 2nd qualifying round, and in turn become the first team from Gibraltar to win a qualifying stage of either the Champions or Europa League, in only the second season of teams entering the tournaments.

As expected, social media exploded with both of Lincoln’s goals, after they came back from 1-0 down, and the final whistle saw an outpouring of congratulations for the Red Imps on their fantastic achievement.  Below are the best of the tweets (All content belongs to those who originally posted it)

Congratulations came in from a number of teams across the league:

As you would expect, Lincoln were also very excited after the game:

As were their players:

Finally, there was congratulations from Lincoln’s next opponents:

Lincoln’s European adventure continues next week with the first leg of their tie against Danish champions FC Midtjylland taking place away in Herning on Tuesday, with the return leg being held at the Victoria Stadium on 21st July.  Regardless of the result, Lincoln have made history, and are pushing Gibraltarian football to levels no one would have imagined possible before 2013.

Santa Coloma vs Lincoln – Preview

Lincoln go into tonight’s pivotal UEFA Champions League First Qualifying Round Second Leg tie against FC Santa Coloma of Andorra knowing that a score draw would be enough to see the Red Imps through to the Second Qualifying Round for the first time after only two years of being in UEFA’s premier club competition, and face the Danish champions Midtjylland.

However, if last week’s stubborn performance from the Andorran champions was anything to go by, scoring will be hard for Raul Procopio and his side, and after failing to secure victory in the home leg at the Victoria Stadium, the team made the 1200km trip to Andorra aiming to avoid a repeat of last year’s away leg in the Faroe Islands, where they found themselves 3-0 down to HB Torshavn in no time at all.

Both sides left the game last week without any injury concerns, but in truth little can be gleaned from the first leg in the Victoria, with the Andorrans less likely to show Lincoln quite as much respect in their tactical approach as they did when employing a 5-4-1 formation when defending attacks from the Red Imps. With only three shots on target registered all game, a high scoring affair like the 5-2 in Torshavn does not seem likely, although an early goal for either side would do the game wonders in terms of its entertainment.

Looking at the bookies though, it is clear in their minds at least that Santa Coloma are clear favourites to win the match, with Bet365 offering odds of 1.5 for the home side to win and progress to the next round. The draw, which as long as it isn’t 0-0 would see Lincoln go through, is priced at 4.33, while an away win is as high as 6.00.

Lincoln have confirmed that the game tonight will be streamed live on the Andorran FA website.

Football Gibraltar tips: (Odds correct as of time of posting)

Under 2.5 Goals – 2.00

Lincoln or Draw – 2.50

Wood Appointed National Manager

The Gibraltar FA (GFA) announced today the appointment of Jeff Wood as permanent National Head Coach, with immediate effect.

Wood, who takes the role of permanent national manager after Allen Bula was relieved of his duties back in March, worked with former interim manager David Wilson in the games against Croatia and Germany last month and spent last season at Premier Division side Lions.

The Islington born 61 year old, who has previously managed English side Brighton, as well as Sliema Wanderers of Malta, has been connected with Gibraltar for a while, dating back to 2004 when he was working up the coast running Charlton Athletic’s European Soccer School.

Wood’s role within Gibraltarian football extends further than just managing the national side, with the GFA in a statement saying that “Jeff also becomes the Gibraltar FA’s Coach Educator responsible for the education and development of coaches in Gibraltar and delivering courses in accordance with the UEFA Coaching Convention.”

Wilson, who in his two competitive games oversaw a positive change in the way the national team approached matches against superior opponents, with the equaliser against Scotland from Lee Casciaro being the first fruit of his labours, will remain with Wood as his assistant.

The full GFA statement can be read here

GFA part ways with national manager Allen Bula

National manager Allen Bula has been fired from his position by the Gibraltar FA, less than a month before the upcoming qualifier with Scotland.

Bula, who has worked with the national team since 2010, was relieved of his duties in a statement released by the GFA this morning.
The GFA statement reads: “After a thorough and careful investigation, into internal matters, the Gibraltar FA has come to the decision that an immediate change was appropriate. It is not a decision that has been reached lightly or hastily.”

“The Gibraltar FA is committed to safeguarding football on the Rock and ensuring that the National Team remains the pinnacle of Gibraltarian football. Consequently the search for a new Gibraltar National Team Manager will begin immediately.”

There is no news yet as to who will succeed Bula, or if a new manager will be in place before the qualifier at Hampden Park on March 29. The big decision for the GFA will be whether they stay local with their new appointment, or look abroad for a potential coach, which may irk those who believe the role of the national manager should only go to a local.

Since joining UEFA in 2012, Bula oversaw nine official Gibraltar matches, earning a win against Malta and draws vs Slovakia and Estonia, all in friendly matches. Gibraltar’s four qualifiers have seen the team lose all four games, conceding 21 goals in the process,

2014 – A year in review

As we leave 2014 behind – an exciting year for sure – it would only be right to look at what is coming up in the next 12 months.

The first international involvement for Gib sees the futsal team travel to Bulgaria to face the hosts, Greece and Denmark in Futsal Euro qualifiers. Two years since Gibraltar’s first involvement in any UEFA competition, it is hoped that the futsal team will carry on the progress that the small-sided game has achieved on the Rock, both domestically and internationally.

March will see Gibraltar play their fifth Senior qualifying match, away at Scotland. The match at Hampden Park will be the hosts first since renovations were implemented at the ground ahead of the Commonwealth Games, and Gibraltar will be hoping to continue the progress that has seen them only allow four goals past the World Champions. For sure, a repeat of the 7-0 loss vs Ireland, which made for hard viewing at times, should not be repeated now the team, both players and staff, are no longer naive to the monumental task ahead of them in the form of five professional teams with years of international experience.

As spring turns to summer, the domestic league reaches its climax. With Lincoln two points ahead of nearest rivals College Europa, you’d fancy the Red Imps to once again retain their title, despite the gap between them and the other top teams in the league finally getting closer. The UEFA money, criticised by some as it has led to noticeably less locals playing in the league, has at least turned the league into more of a real contest instead of a Sunday stroll for Lincoln.

The Rock Cup could potentially decide who takes Gibraltar’s Europa League spot for next season too, providing Lincoln don’t win that of course. After last year’s farce with both College and Manchester 62 thinking they had qualified, the rules should be set in stone now, and no last minute alterations are expected.

The Second Division will also wrap up, with four teams currently believing they can finish in a top two spot, and have their chance to get a slice of the top division pie. Top of the pile are Gibraltar United, back for this season with a ‘Bilbao’ approach to their team, but with fellow ‘newbies’ Gibraltar Scorpions, Angels FC and Europa Point hot on their heels, the second tier is by no means decides. Who knows, if the GFA decide to expand the Premier to 10 teams, we might see a couple of these teams in the Premier next year.

June sees the World Champions come to Faro for the return qualifier. With it being the first “home” match since October, hopefully friendlies are arranged where possible before the match. This leads onto the issue of FIFA membership. Sepp Blatter may have said no to the GFA joining the world football body, but another trip to CAS might change that. However, provisional membership at a minimum is needed before June if Gib want to be in the World Cup qualifying draw, and not be exiled from competitive football from November 2015 until after Russia 2018.

July sees two teams take on the Champions League and Europa League qualifiers. With Gibraltar hot on the heels of San Marino in the coefficients, a good result or two could ensure two Europa League spots are up for grabs in the 2016/17 season.

As for the second half of the year, there’s little different to the last six months. The under 17’s and under 19’s once again go to battle in qualifiers,with the U19’s being put in the same group as France and the Netherlands. A new season starts once again, the final Senior qualifiers are played out, and with Allen Bula’s contract expiring after those qualifiers, it remains to be seen whether the GFA choose to renew his deal.

On a side note, there are rumours of Gibraltar sending a team to the Island Games in Jersey in the summer. Most likely it will be a women’s team, who need the game time, but it is something to keep an eye out for.

Regardless of what happens, 2015 promises to be another busy year for the football scene in Gibraltar.

Gibraltar invited to Malta for futsal tournament

Gibraltar are one of the teams invited to Malta for their fourth ‘International Futsal Tournament’, held at the Corradino Sports Pavilion in Paola, Malta.

Gibraltar, Malta and Serbia will contest the three day competition as preparation for the upcoming 2016 UEFA Futsal EURO qualifiers.

The chance to face Serbia, a top 20 FIFA Futsal nation will be a big test for Gibraltar, who are looking to at least match the three points they picked up in Nice back in 2013 when they travel to Bulgaria to face the hosts, Greece and Denmark.

Malta have played Gibraltar twice before, and both nations hold a victory over each other in those friendlies.

The fixtures (all kick off 18:30 Maltese time)
Serbia – Gibraltar 30/11/14
Malta – Gibraltar 1/12/14