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Gibraltar U19s concede 43 goals in 3 qualifying matches

Steve Cummings and his Gibraltar U19’s suffered badly in their U19 qualifying campaign this month, conceding 43 goals in three matches after today’s 16-1 defeat against Switzerland.

The team, which admittedly was not helped by having five of their eligible players called up to the U21 side for their international matches, suffered 14-0 and 13-0 defeats against Austria and Republic of Ireland in their first two games, and notably by the time the game vs Switzerland came about, Gib only had four substitutes available for the game, despite setting off for Austria with a 19-man squad. Craig Galliano’s penalty was the only positive note in the final match, although by then that was to make the score 5-1.

The results however will no doubt be of concern to GFA officials, especially considering the last U19 qualifying campaign saw 18 goals conceded in 3 matches, and 19 in the tournament before that – the total of 43 this time out is alarming, as are some of the other stats from the three games*:

130 – shots conceded (1 shot every 2 minutes, 4 seconds)

69 – shots on target conceded (1 shot every 3 minutes, 54 seconds)

6 minutes, 16 seconds – minutes and seconds per goal conceded

7 – shots taken (1 shot every 38 minutes, 34 seconds)

3 – shots on target (1 shot on target every 90 minutes)

Naturally, the general reaction within local footballing circles has not been positive, and the recent trip to Taiwan for the Development Tournament, where Gib beat Hong Kong and narrowly lost to Myanmar and the host nation Chinese Taipei, has not provided the momentum perhaps hoped for. For Cummings, his job may be under threat given there has been a sharp downturn in the performances of the team in such a short space of time. For the players, who in truth will have not been able to do much about these performances, this will be a very steep learning curve for them – the job for the clubs and families of these players now is to ensure the players aren’t too adversely affected by the results and that it doesn’t stunt their development too much.

The only respite going forward for Gib is that this is the last campaign at U19 level in this format, with the next qualifiers taking on a Nations League set-up. Gib will therefore play U19 teams more at their level in future campaigns which hopefully will lead to a more balanced playing field. Hopefully this month’s disastrous campaign can be used as a springboard to work on improving the U19 team (and other youth teams) going forward both on and off the pitch – from how they play when in a game to ensuring they are still developing while at university in UK by ensuring they get places at proper clubs, and not just uni teams, where the standard is basically Sunday League (the university issue is a major problem for Gib at this level, but is something to discuss in a different article) and much more – especially given in a few years a lot of these youngsters will be potentially making the senior side.

*All stats courtesy of UEFA.com.

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Big six days of action for Gibraltar’s national sides

The Gibraltar national team, U21 and U19 sides play a combined seven games across the next six days, starting this afternoon with both the U21 and U19 sides in action.

Photo (C) Naps

The matches start this afternoon at 13:00, when the Gibraltar U19s take on Austria in the first of their U19 qualifying triple-header. The game was originally meant to take place yesterday, but due to snow in Austria, where the mini-tournament is being held, both the Gib game, as well as the match between their other two Group 10 opponents Switzerland and Republic of Ireland were postponed, and rearranged for this afternoon instead.

Later in the evening, the first of three matches to be held at the Victoria Stadium will take place, as Gibraltar U21s host Netherlands U21 at 19:00. David Ochello’s side will want to build on what was a battling performance away at Portugal back in September, although it will undoubtedly be tough against a side that can call on players with experience in top leagues, such as Manchester United’s Tahith Chong, and Roma’s Justin Kluivert, who already has two caps for the full Netherlands national team. Entry to the U21 match is free, and you simply have to collect a ticket from the Ticket Office outside the Tercentenary Sports Hall from 5pm this evening.

Tomorrow, the national team takes centre-stage as Gibraltar take on Denmark in their penultimate Euro 2020 qualifier, at the Telia Parken Stadium in Copenhagen. The team trained this morning at the ground ahead of the game, which will be Gibraltar’s final away match of the campaign. Head Coach Julio Ribas made one change from October’s squad, with Bradley Banda coming in to replace Matt Cafer as one of the three keepers. Football Gibraltar are in Copenhagen for the match and we will be bringing you coverage live from the Telia Parken Stadium – make sure to follow us on Twitter (@FootballGib and @FGScoreCentre) for coverage of the press conferences and the match itself.

Steve Cumming’s U19 side have two further qualifiers after today, when they take on Republic of Ireland on Saturday, and then Switzerland on Tuesday – for live score updates of all three games, visit UEFA.com where their score centre will keep you updated.

Monday sees the senior side play their final match of 2019, as they face Switzerland at the Victoria Stadium. With the game expected to be a vital one for the Swiss in their aim to qualify automatically for Euro 2020, there will be a lot on the line for the visitors, who in the reverse fixture won 4-0, albeit largely thanks to a poor eight minute spell where Gib conceded three times just before the half time break. Tickets for that match are limited, and if any remain, you can buy them at tickets.gibraltarfa.com. If you can’t make the game, you can again follow Football Gibraltar’s coverage of the game on social media, including press conferences, open training sessions and the match itself.

Finally, the Victoria Stadium will also play host on Tuesday to Gibraltar U21 v Belarus U21. Ochello’s side will be looking to make up for a shocking reverse fixture, where Belarus put 10 past the Gib U21s in what was probably their worst performance to date. This will also be the U21s final fixture until March, and will present them a chance to try and end a tough 2019 on a more positive note. Like the Netherlands game, entry to this U21 match is free, and the same ticket collection procedure is expected to be in place.

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Serra: “I knew that it was a tough challenge but I was definitely prepared”

At just 17 years old, Niall Serra has turned a few heads with some eye-catching performances – we spoke to the Glacis defender about life in the Premier Division, captaining Gibraltar U19’s and much more.  

Since coming onto the scene in late October, Niall Serra has made huge steps in his progression and certainly raised a few eyebrows along the way – we asked him how he has found life in the Premier Division, “After training with the premier squad, and being involved in matches and observing from the bench, I knew that it was a tough challenge but I was definitely prepared. After my debut, against Lions I felt a great amount of confidence and faith in myself to push even harder and earn my place. After 6 games now I’ve felt very comfortable and I’ve adapted quickly, the intensity is on another level compared to the intermediate league, however, I’ve found that I’ve asserted my position in the team.”

After losing Dani Guerrero to St Joseph’s – Glacis have struggled to find a good enough partner for Francisco Cano but over the last few games, Niall has shown great maturity and looks to be a real talent for the future. We asked him how he has found playing with the 27-year old, “I have developed great relationships and learned a lot from the players and coaching staff, they’ve surrounded me with nothing but positivity on the pitch. I’m constantly greeted with support on every action I take on and off the field. My footballing ability has undoubtedly increased due to all the experienced players’ remarks and I have only gratitude and appreciation towards them. Being partnered up with Fran Cano has given me the opportunity to witness and learn even further allowing me to play to the best of my ability.”

At 17 years old, Niall was appointed captain for Gibraltar’s recent U19 campaign – we asked him how it felt, “Being named captain of the Gibraltar U19s is such an incredible honour that I will cherish forever. Playing for my country is a feeling like no other, and captaining it is one that words cannot describe. I was given a huge responsibility and I was prepared to give my all for my team and my country and I’ll make sure I fight to keep my place in the next tournament to come. It was undeniably an experience like no other.”

Lastly, Niall gave us an insight into what he hopes to achieve in the future – “In terms of my footballing career, I aim to progress through the ranks of GFA and eventually break into the senior squad and represent my country at the highest level. I have also set a target of continuing to develop as a player and perhaps making my way to the highest rank of football in Gibraltar or perhaps elsewhere. The opportunity to show ones ability in the Gibraltar Premier Division is not very common for locals and the fact that I have been able to do so at such an early age, fighting for my spot has only triggered my desire to get to the top wherever that may be.”

Photo – Neil Wilson. 

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De Barr: “The last few days have been great for me”

After the recent international break, we caught up with Lincoln and Gibraltar midfielder Tjay De Barr, who featured for both the U21s and the senior national team in the last few days.

Photo (C) C Correa Photography

Having been in the squad for all three games, De Barr started last night against Russia in the U21 qualifiers, after coming off the bench just over 48 hours before for the national team against Latvia. We asked the 18-year old for his thoughts on the 5-0 defeat against the Russians: “First, I’d like to thank everyone who turned up to support us throughout both games, it’s always better playing with the crowd behind you. My thoughts against Russia, we had a game plan set up by our managers and we tried to stick to it, I think the first 40 minutes of the game was great keeping it 0-0 however we lost focus for whatever reason and they managed to get 2 goals before half time.

In these kind of games, you need to stay focused and concentrated through the whole 93 minutes and if you just drop your heads once they put a goal passed you and I think that’s what happened with us. However, I think the whole team did amazing and everyone gave their 100% so I’m happy with that and obviously it’s always a great feeling knowing everyone is giving their all.”

Originally, De Barr was only meant to be in the U21 squad, but injuries to the main team saw him given a call-up to Desi Curry’s side for the 1-0 win in the friendly international. De Barr, who won the free-kick that lead to Liam Walker’s 88th minute winner, had this to say about his experience in recent days: “The last few days have been great for me. There was three big games being played at the rock and I can admit I was nervous but I loved the feeling of it, I was excited for the first game versus Serbia but for whatever reason I didn’t manage to come on so I was looking towards the next game vs Russia, however then the first team called me up to be part of the squad for the Latvia game. Again same as under 21’s the first team had a plan to do and I think it came out great, being part of it all was amazing for me and making a senior debut here in Gibraltar in front of our home I think personally was the best way to do it, I hope to be able to represent Gibraltar in senior level again or in whichever age group it may be it’s always a privilege to represent your country.”

De Barr is gradually being introduced into his club side, Lincoln, who are dominating the league this season, with the attacking midfielder featuring at some point in 11 league games this season. With the league firmly in Lincoln’s grasp, we asked what his ambitions were at domestic level for the rest of the season: “Now it’s back to the league with Lincoln, I think we need to continue what we are doing, throughout the whole season we’ve been focused, and we need to remain that way. Obviously, I will be looking to win the league first and then the cup but everyone in Lincoln wants our three trophies back.”