In the latest part of our interviews with the people involved with Gibraltar’s maiden European campaign, we caught up with former Europa & US Le Pontet goalkeeper Jamie Robba, now playing at Lynx. Continue reading
With Gibraltar’s Euro Qualifiers finished, we caught up with Gibraltar’s most capped player in qualification Joseph Chipolina as he reflected on the campaign.
Firstly, Joseph Chipolina reflected on how the campaign went, ” I suppose it has been a great experience not only for players but for everyone who has been involved with the squad. Most of the people started of this route not knowing really what would be needed or what we would have to expect so i’m hoping everyone has learnt much from this Qualifier, and will be able to go into the next one with more experience, knowing roughly what could be expected. This Qualifier has been a difficult one because of the teams we have been playing against, it was known as the strongest group. I have to say for my first Qualifier even though we have lost all our games if I could have chosen a group it would have been this one. It has been a privilege to play against the World Champions and top quality players like Lewandowski, Gotze, Muller etc.”
Joseph has been playing regularly for club and country since returning to Gibraltar from Spain, we asked how playing regularly has helped his development, “I am really happy and pleased to have been able to play every game for the National side especially playing against all those Nations. It is always important for a player to play games like this you gain self confidence and if things then start going smoothly and well, your confidence starts to grow and not only that but you play freely without fear and enjoy every game.”
Chipolina has earned many plaudits for his performances in the Euro Qualifiers, with top sporting journalists talking about how Joseph has the potential to be able to compete in top divisions in Spain & Scotland, we got his feelings on the news, “The most important thing is self confidence and you knowing you are having a good time while playing. If then you hear good things about yourself by others and especially by journalists then it’s a massive achievement. This obviously helps on your motivational side making you want to keep up those standards and playing the same way you’ve been playing throughout.”
However young or old you are, as a footballer you never stop learning. Joseph reflected on the lessons he learnt from the Qualifiers, “You learn many lessons the most important is trying to enjoy every game to the fullest and giving it your all. In these games you can’t make mistakes because every mistake you make will end up with the opposition having a chance or scoring a goal.”
Growing up Joseph Chipolina has played most of his childhood days in Spain, playing for Real Balompédica Linense & CD San Roque. He had some advice for those youngsters hoping to do the same, “This is a good question I would say for them to go over, as it is there where I grew as a player. The professionalism and discipline you get there is not the same as we get here. Lately things are changing here in Gibraltar as we are becoming more professional but it will take some time before we notice a difference in attitudes and also discipline.”
Lincoln currently sit top of the league after defeating Lynx 4-0, with clubs investing more money every season, we asked how hard it will be for Lincoln to win their 14th title in a row, “Lincoln have a great team once again and it is true that other teams have strengthened, but as we say in Lincoln it is up to us to carry on our winning streak and demonstrate one more year that who ever wants to win the league will have to work hard for it. I personally think we stand a big chance once again in winning the league.”
Football Gibraltar would like to thank Joseph Chipolina for his time and wish him the best of luck for the future.
With Gibraltar’s Euro Qualifiers finished, we caught up with one of the team’s standout performers Jordan Perez as he reflected on the campaign.
Firstly Jordan Perez reflected on how the campaign went, “Obviously as it was our first tournament under the UEFA flag; result wise it wasn’t good at all even though we expected it, but in the past four or five games we have progressed as a team especially attacking wise but defensively we still have to work a lot. All in all I reckon it’s been a very good experience for all of us and one which we would have never imagined to be possible five years ago. It’s been great to be able to represent my country at the highest level of football and the way the lads have been helping each other out whenever we’ve had problems has been great. We have realised the level we have to be at, to be able to compete against big nations such as Germany, Ireland etc. It’s all a matter of training hard and seeing what kind of youth we have coming through the ranks.”
There are two games that stand out for Jordan Perez; the horror show at Ireland and the heroic display against Germany, Perez reflected on the Ireland game, “I was having a very bad period psychologically to be honest as I was the Lincoln keeper for many years and they brought in a new keeper [Raul Navas] and I was never given the chance. I was just pushed aside so morally I was quite low. I was trying to get out of contract and it wasn’t possible before the Ireland game, so I wasn’t match fit and I feel it did affect me. Despite this we were playing against Ireland in the Aviva Stadium and apart from three or four mistakes it was still an avalanche of goals.”
After Jordan’s own goal against Ireland, the keeper was the trending topic on social media. We asked if the situation would have been worse if it happened in Gibraltar, rather than on the international stage, “Yes, at the end of the day we realised that no matter how many people watch you still have to perform to the best of your ability. Even if there’s one hundred people watching or forty thousand people watching, what really matters to a player is their own personal performance, so what people think about it at the end of the day, you either use it in a positive way or you just don’t listen to it. You need to be self critical about your own performances, as I have been at many times. I watched the Ireland game many times and even the own goal I scored I still watch. I laugh about it now but at the time it was very frustrating.”
Jordan Perez reflected on his heroic display against Gibraltar, “For me it was a personal task, I had to prove certain people that what they did to me was a big mistake and at the same time I was thanking them for making me realise that I had a lot more in me to show as a goalkeeper. I made a big decision about leaving Lincoln after so many years at that club and join Lions. It helped me a lot as I was training with Jeff Wood a lot who was the Lions manager at the time, and being at the back foot of a team that wasn’t that good in the league, I progressed as a goalkeeper. When I got to the Germany game I thought to myself that it’s now or never, I need to bring out the best performance I can for at least forty five minutes, because we know what happens after that, the other team steps up and we lower our gear. I was so concentrated that I didn’t even realise that we had fans watching us, it was just the football and the twenty-one other players on the pitch. The standout moment was saving Bastian Schweinsteiger’s penalty as not a lot of keepers can say they have saved the captain of the World Champion’s penalty. That is something I’d tell my grandchildren about for the rest of my life and it is always something I can say that I did.”
On a personal level, Jordan Perez reflected on the lessons he learnt from the tournament, “The physical and mental state has to change drastically. We’ve all changed our diets, training plans and our lifestyle. We don’t do what we used to do when you go out on a Friday night and play on a Saturday, that’s a no gamer for us anymore. We have realised that type of level these professionals are at and that’s why they get paid so much, they’ve been brought up through that regime since a very young age and obviously after they play a game, they fly back to their country and train with the best players and coaches around. While on the other hand we come back and we go back to work so we need to put in that extra effort and train that bit harder to get close to that level.”
The next Euro tournament is in three years, at the time Perez will be 30/31 years old, we asked if he sees himself as Gibraltar’s number one as his rival Jamie Robba will be in his mid 20’s, “If I don’t see myself as number one I will most definitely not be there, I am in the frame of mind that I will continue to fight for my spot until I retire. Obviously with goalkeepers the older they get the more experienced they get so it’s a great situation to be in to help players. At the same time having someone like Jamie Robba knocking on my door keeps me motivated and in shape but I will give it my best shot and fight for my position for as long as it takes.”
As we stated earlier that the next tournament is in three years, we asked how badly affected he thinks the squad will be when Lee Casciaro, Roy Chipolina etc retire internationally, “Definitely, that’s a big worry. To be honest there are only a handful of youngsters that could step up to that challenge. I don’t see the hunger in the youngsters nowadays like there used to be ten years ago when there was no money to collect, it was just a hobby. I think the national squad is going to suffer humongously and the number of foreign players in our league isn’t going to help at all. As for the development of kids I think we need to bring in managers from abroad with high qualifications, either to help local managers or to make a good setup of kids to develop them. Once the big names leave I think we have a big job of replacing them.”
Perez gave us an insight of the change of managers throughout the tournament affected the team, “Tricky questions, we need to remember that we only just started at this level and no matter how many managers you bring along, it is going to be very difficult to change the team. Although recently with Dave Wilson in Scotland and Jeff Wood recently, we have seen a vast improvement in the way the players tried to approach the game with the confidence they have, and there is much more tranquility in the camp. Players are more relaxed in the sense that they have the full backing of the manager, which has helped develop and motivate the team to be better than we were.
Lastly Perez spoke on his ambitions for the future, “I think there should be a complete restructure of the way the league is going ahead in Gibraltar. I welcome the influx of foreign players as it is going to improve our league but there are many players coming from abroad that I don’t see as being better than what we have locally. At the same time though the local players have thrown the towel away and don’t want to compete. They just want to go and play in the Second Division and just play for fun but at least I think there should be some sort of cap on how many foreign players you can have on the pitch at one time, like many other small nations have done.”
Football Gibraltar would like to thank Jordan Perez for his time and wish him the best of luck for the future.
Gibraltar started their historic first qualifying campaign against Poland, and no one really knew what to expect as the national team embarked into the unknown. Going into half time only 1-0 down would have surprised many, but after 60 minutes the score was 5-0, and the flurry of goals after the break would become all too familiar a sight at the qualification wore on, as would the 7-0 full time score.
A month later, and Gibraltar had their first double-header, which bought with it the task of a largely semi-professional team playing two games in four days. The first game was probably the worst performance the national team put in all tournament, as they lost 7-0 in Dublin, with the own goal from Jordan Perez summing up the performance of a team who had conceded all seven goals before then manager Allen Bula chose to take off Perez for Jamie Robba. It would take the St Joseph’s keeper until June to regain his place in the national squad.
That game was followed up by a 3-0 home defeat against Georgia, where Gib had a goal disallowed in front of 281 spectators, by far the lowest attendance the national team played in front of. Despite home games being played in Faro, a loyal following of Gibraltar supporters backed the team through thick and thin across Europe.
November saw a trip to Nuremberg, and a match against the World Champions. A ‘mismatch’ was the hot buzzword on most neutrals lips before the game, and talk of double figures and records tumbling were popular talking points. Instead, Germany only managed to win 4-0, including an own goal from Yogen Santos, and Liam Walker almost scored a wonder goal past Manuel Neuer, who spared the blushes of his manager Joachim Low.
We’d have to wait until March for Gibraltar’s next fixture, and it would prove to be an historic occasion at Hampden Park, as Lee Casciaro’s equaliser in the 6-1 defeat was Gibraltar’s first ever competitive goal. The two penalties conceded would become a worrying theme in the remaining games though, and is somewhere that Gibraltar can hopefully improve on in the coming years.
After a friendly defeat against Croatia, where Jordan Perez regained his spot in the national team, Germany once again were Gibraltar’s opponents. Perez impressed many with his first half performance, including the save of a Bastian Schweinsteiger penalty, but despite once again going in 1-0 down at half time, the team tired in the second half and the final score was 7-0 in favour of the World Champions, a result which perhaps flattered them slightly.
The second-to-last international break saw another double-header for Gib, as they hosted Ireland, before a trip to Poland. Against the Irish, they were vastly more resolute than in the away fixture, and Martin O’Neill’s side only came away from Faro with a 4-0 victory. Poland, spearheaded by Robert Lewandowski, who had already scored four vs Gib in Faro and was about to go on a superb scoring spree, scored twice as Poland went 8-0 up with 15 minutes to go. Gibraltar’s attacking play was rewarded with a second, and final goal in qualifying, when Bristol Rovers’ Jake Gosling fired past Swansea keeper Lukasz Fabianski.
Earlier this month, Gibraltar’s final two games took place. The away game in Georgia was wrongly seen by some as a chance for Gibraltar to pick up points; the Georgians had beaten Scotland in their last home game and would go on after this to almost draw in Germany. An uninspiring 4-0 loss, where the Georgian fans even booed their own team for their lacklustre performance at times, left many unfairly doubting new manager Jeff Wood, before the former Brighton and Lions manager had his chance to put his footprint on the squad.
10,000 Scottish fans travelled to Faro in anticipation of making the top three in Group D. However, Lewandowski’s last-gasp equaliser at Hampden meant this game was a dead-rubber, and in a rainy Faro, Gibraltar ended their maiden qualifying campaign with a 6-0 defeat at the hands of Gordon Strachan’s side.
With no competitive fixtures for three years now, the game against Scotland could prove the final competitive outing for a number of Gib players, such as Lee Casciaro and Roy Chipolina, both stalwarts of the national side for many years. For the time being though, Gibraltar must build to the future if they wish to improve on their record this time out.
Last week Gibraltar U19’s flew to France to take part in this years UEFA U19 Euro Championships. Expectations weren’t the greatest due to the lack of match preparation, flight preparation and also being stuck in the same group as Netherlands & France, which is no easy test. We caught up with midfielder Leon Clinton as he reflected on the tournament and his famous goal.
Firstly, Clinton reflect on how the tournament went, “The tournament didn’t go as well as it could have, preparation coming up to the tournament was poor, but as usual we always gave our all and left everything on the pitch. Netherlands were extremely skillful and France were a pacey and strong team, it was a tremendous feeling playing against them. Our last game against Liechtenstein, a team I’ve played 3 times already, we both had great chances to win the game but we were unable to convert them.”
Gibraltar U19 drew their last game of the Qualifiers against Liechtenstein 1-1, we asked Clinton how it felt scoring the equaliser. “The feeling was incredible. Words can’t describe the emotions I felt when I saw the ball hit the back of the net.”
Gibraltar finished bottom of their group, level on points with Liechtenstein but with a much greater goal difference due to their 9-0 losses to Netherlands & France. Clinton reflected on the lessons he learnt from the tournament, “I leant that we are nowhere near as close to the top teams, that’s obviously due to lack of pitches and training sessions.”
Lastly, Clinton gave us an insight into his ambitions for this season, “This season I’m hoping to play more first team games for Lincoln Red Imps than last year and you never know, hopefully a call up for the national squad.”
Football Gibraltar would like to thank Leon Clinton for his time and wish him the best of luck for the future.
Scotland end a disappointing UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying campaign on a high note with a comfortable victory against Gibraltar in Faro. Goals by Chris Martin, Shaun Maloney, Steven Naismith and a Steven Fletcher hat-trick enough to win them the three points.
The first half started with Scotland dominating possession, making Gibraltar defend deep and waiting for a mistake arise. Gibraltar came into the game in a 3-5-2 formation, a formation which Gibraltar struggled and Scotland capitalised. Alan Hutton did well to get to the byline and cross for Shaun Maloney to hit over.
Alan Hutton continued to dominate down the right hand side, his pass to Steven Fletcher created the first chance as Jamie Robba made a great save to keep out Maloney’s shot. Gibraltar came fighting back straight after, Lee Casciaro darting run played the ball to Kyle Casciaro on the wing, the striker’s cross found Joseph Chipolina whose shot was blocked and cleared.
Jamie Robba made a terrific save to keep out Shaun Maloney’s header. The result corner was whipped in and met by Gordon Greer who flicked his effort over Jamie Robba and tapped in by Chris Martin. Scotland nearly extended their lead minutes later, Andrew Robertson’s cross found Matt Ritchie whose shot was cleared off the line by Roy Chipolina.
Scotland made it 2-0 just before half-time, some great wing play by Alan Hutton saw his cross somehow find its way to Shaun Maloney at the back post, the maestro controlled the ball and curled it straight into the top corner giving Robba no chance.
The second half started with Scotland dominating and Gibraltar struggling to get out their own half. Scotland made it 3-0 on the 52nd minute, Alan Hutton drifted past Anthony Bardon and cross was met by Steven Fletcher whose header flew past Robba. Four minutes later Scotland made it 4-0, Steven Fletcher capitalised on a Ryan Casciaro mistake and slotted his shot past Jamie Robba.
After both teams made a few changes Gibraltar had their best spell, Kyle Casciaro’s run went unchallenged by the Scotland defenders but the striker dragged his shot wide. Shortly after Liam Walker tried his luck from range after skipping past a few Scotland defenders but the midfielder smashed his effort wide.
With five minutes remaining Scotland made it 5-0, Steven Fletcher scored his second hat-trick against Gibraltar with a delightful curled shot past Jamie Robba, on the edge of the area. Jamie Robba made a great save moments later to keep out Johnny Russell’s close range shot.
In added time Scotland made it 6-0, Steven Fletcher turned provider as Steven Naismith slotted his shot home to add a touch of gloss to the scoreline for Scotland. The game restarted and referee Aleksei Kulbakov blew for full-time.
Scotland will head into the final game of Euro 2016 qualifying against Gibraltar knowing that their dream of reaching the tournament is over. Gibraltar are still aiming to collect their first point in Group D as they prepare to meet a side trying to finish an ultimately frustrating campaign on a high.
It was a familiar feeling for Gibraltar on Wednesday night as they slipped to yet another emphatic loss in the penultimate fixture of their first qualifying campaign as an official member of FIFA. Much like their previous performances in Group D, there was plenty of determination and stubbornness displayed by a team made up of mainly part-timers, but they were unable to avoid a 4-0 loss to Georgia.
Ten successive defeats were certainly expected for Jeff Wood and his players, but there will be an eagerness to end the campaign on a high when they take on a Scotland side still hurting from their disappointment in midweek.In truth, this campaign has been a learning process for the smallest nation in the competition, and although a positive result may still be far away, Wood will be desperate for his side to be resilient at the back as they look to offer signs that they could be a potential banana skin in the future.
Many followers of Gordon Strachan’s side would have booked their tickets for the trip to Gibraltar’s second home in the Algarve full of optimism a while back, but they will travel with a frustrated feeling after being dealt a cruel blow in their bid to reach next summer’s tournament.
After hitting back with goals from Matt Ritchie and Steven Fletcher against Poland, it looked like Scotland would be in with a shout heading into the final game before Robert Lewandowski struck for the second time at Hampden Park to earn a 2-2 draw for the visitors.
The result left the Tartan Army in fourth place, six points behind both Poland and Republic of Ireland as their hopes of a playoff spot were dashed in stoppage time, but fans and players will look further back for the reason behind their disappointment.
Scotland will be without Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths and his club-mate Charlie Mulgrew. Midfielders James McArthur and James Morrison, of Crystal Palace and West Brom respectively, and Blackburn striker Jordan Rhodes also miss out.
Gibraltar take on Scotland tomorrow at 20:45 and you can follow the game on our Twitter @FGScoreCentre.
Goals from Tornike Okriashvili, Valeri Kazaishvili & a brace from Mate Vatsadze secured a comfortable victory for Georgia in Tbilisi.
The first half started with Georgia dominating possession, Jordan Perez was called into an early save keeping out a shot from Valeri Kazaishvili. Minutes later some great build-up play from Gibraltar saw Anthony Bardon have his shot, Gibraltar players appealed for handball but the referee said play on.
Fifteen minutes in and Georgia nearly took the lead, a cross was whipped in and met by the head of Valeri Kazaishvili who brought out a terrific save from Jordan Perez. Three minutes later Perez made another great save to keep out a shot from Mate Vatsadze.
Thirty minutes in and Georgia took the lead, Gibraltar defender Ryan Casciaro was dragged out of position, striker Mate Vatsadze latched onto a through ball and calmly slotted it past an onrushing Jordan Perez. Five minutes later a cross from Otar Kakabadze was blocked by the hand of Anthony Bardon in the box, referee pointed straight to the spot. Tornike Okriashvili stepped up and slotted it past Jordan Perez.
With five minutes remaining Gibraltar have their first big chance, Jake Gosling played a great pass to Liam Walker in the middle, the midfielder controlled and unleashed a fiercely struck shot which was saved by Nukri Revishvili. Just before the halftime whistle blew, a cross was whipped in and met by the head of Mate Vatsadze who rose above the Gibraltar defenders and guided his header past Jordan Perez.
The second half started with Gibraltar making a substitution with George Cabrera being replaced by Brian Perez. Gibraltar’s second half display was a lot better than the first, they nearly got themselves a goal when Joseph Chipolina got into some space and tried his luck from range, his shot took a deflection and looked to be rolling in but Nukri Revishvili was able to save it.
Just after the hour mark Georgia nearly got their fourth, a cross was whipped in and met by Mate Vatsadze who headed his effort onto the crossbar. Jordan Perez made a great double save minutes later keeping out Mate Vatsadze’s efforts of getting his hattrick. Georgia managed to make it 4-0 with three minutes remaining, Valeri Kazaishvili skipped past two players with ease and smashed his long range effort through the legs of Roy Chipolina and past Jordan Perez.
Five minutes later the referee blew for full-time and Georgia secured all three points.
Gibraltar take on Georgia in Tbilisi tonight, as the national team plays its penultimate European Qualifier.
Jeff Wood’s side got through their training session yesterday without suffering any injuries, and all 23 players will be available for selection in the game at the Dinamo Arena.
Ahead of the game, both Wood, and captain Roy Chipolina talked about how the home side are understandably strong favourites tonight, but that they will try to use that in their favour. After they beat Scotland 1-0 in their last fixture, and did not allow their opposition a single shot on target, the likes of Lee Casciaro and Jake Gosling will have as tough a job as always in leading the team’s attacking play.
In the reverse fixture, Georgia beat Gibraltar 3-0 in Faro, in what was former manager Allen Bula’s last ‘home’ game. Since then, both teams have changed their manager, and new Head Coach Kakhaber Tskhadadze would no doubt like to see his team add to the five goals they have scored in the qualifiers.
Tonight’s game, which kicks off at 6pm in Gib, is live on both GBC, Sky Sports 2 and Canal Plus Futbol.
As expected, Georgia are huge favourites to win the game, with Bet365 pricing the home side at 1/25 to pick up all three points.
For Gibraltar, a shock victory comes with odds of 50/1, while the draw is currently 20/1.
A repeat of the 3-0 scoreline from the game in Faro is priced at 4/1, while if you feel Georgia will win, but that Gibraltar will get on the score-sheet for the third time in five away qualifiers, you can get odds of 3/1.
Gibraltar play Georgia in Tbilisi at 6pm Gibraltarian time tonight. As always, if you can not watch the game live, you can follow our coverage of the game on @FGScoreCentre
Gibraltar manager Jeff Wood named his final 23-man squad for the games against Poland and Scotland today, with some of Wood’s decisions causing strong debate with the local football community.
Goalkeepers stay the same with Perez, Robba & Neale keeping their place. With UEFA requiring three keepers are registered in a squad, only injury would have seen any of the three miss out on this squad, and it seems Wood is settled on this particular trio for the time being.
The only change in defence sees Jack Sergeant miss out, after not fully recovering from an injury he picked up against Ireland. Sergeant played for Manchester in the 2-2 draw against Lynx last Friday, but failed to make the cut for this squad, so the 20-year-old will not be able to add to his nine caps for the national team.
The midfield is where Wood’s decisions have caused the most debate and discussion., Jeremy Lopez yesterday pulled out of the squad after stating “he didn’t deserve the call-up”. Aaron Payas pulled out again due to personal reasons, which meant Manchester 62 veteran Daniel Duarte was called up to the national team for the first time since March. Jesse Victory was another player who makes up the unlucky four to be cut from the squad.
A lot of hype was placed around Lions’ Evan Green when he was announced in the 27-man squad, and many believed that Green deserved a place in the final squad. Despite this, he was the sole attacker not to make the team, with the likes of Mikey Yome and Jamie Coombes making the cut. George Cabrera stays in the squad despite a long injury layout, while the likes of Lee Casciaro, Kyle Casciaro and JP Duarte made the team as expected.
With players like Adam Priestley and Scott Wiseman missing the squad due to fitness concerns, and a host of other players simply not making the cut, the current crop of players will have to ensure they perform to the best of their abilities if they want to remain in the national team for future games.
As seems to be the case nowadays, the Gibraltar selection process has surprised many people, who will no doubt question the inclusion of players who have had less than ideal amounts of game time in recent months. Jeff Wood will no doubt be happy with his selections, and will be able to give detailed explanations for every player he’s picked, but at the same time today’s squad will not dispel the theories of a growing number of people that the national team is picked on reputation over form.