Gibraltar make fairytale trip to Ireland in Euro 2016 qualifying clash
While Republic of Ireland and UEFA’s newest member Gibraltar have never met at senior level, their Under-17s have crossed paths twice. Both of those matches were in Ireland, with the hosts winning 4-1 and 5-0, and you can take odds of 18/1 and 11/2 for them to beat the tiny territory again by those respective scorelines.
One thing for sure, as Coral’s odds-on 1/200 price for a Green Army victory suggests, is that Martin O’Neill’s men will take away the three points from this Euro 2016 Group D qualifying game. They beat Georgia 2-1 in their opener, with Everton winger Aiden McGeady getting both goals, and he is a terrific 11/2 to score first here.
O’Neill, ably assisted by the ferocious, bearded Roy Keane, has called up a strong-looking squad for their double header against GFA, as Gibraltar are nicknamed, and world champions Germany three days later. However, they will be without big names Seamus Coleman, James McCarthy and Shay Given, who have all pulled out due to injury.
Gibraltar, though, will be absolutely relishing this challenge in their seventh ever match as a UEFA-recognised nation, and first competitive away game. Prior to the Euro 2016 qualifying groups being drawn, GFA national boss Allen Bula stated that he would love to be pooled with a British Isles nation – he got two, with the other being Scotland.
Ahead of this game, Bula, whose side lost 7-0 in their group opener to Poland but after a courageous first half restricting the score to 1-0 and even creating a few chances, said: “It is going to be a tough test again for my players, especially in a stadium that looks to be packed, but it’s about keeping talking to them, making them believe in themselves.
“Aiden McGeady is one of the players that’s doing very, very well for Ireland at the moment, and Robbie Keane’s experience speaks for itself,” he continued. “We’re concentrating on most of the players, but the likes of McGeady and Keane are going to be a handful.”
On his players, whom many have never played in front of capacity crowds anywhere near as big as Ireland’s Aviva Stadium, that can hold up to 50k, Gibraltar-born Bula bluntly added: “They’ve only got 30 seconds to take in the atmosphere and after 30 seconds, they’ve got to snap out of it.”
Gibraltar, despite being thrashed against Poland at their adopted home in Portugal, can take heart from the fact that they have gained creditable results in their short history so far. They have lost just half of their first six games, and even beat Malta, whose total population is almost 15 times their size, thus equalling San Marino’s total win count from 24 years.
Bula’s boys also managed to grind out a 0-0 draw in their first official game against Slovakia, who recently beat Gibraltar’s bitter enemy and northern neighbours Spain 2-1. If you do fancy GFA to shock the world once more and gain a point in Dublin, back them with enticing odds of 18/1. A win for them somehow, meanwhile, is priced at 50/1.
The main hopes for the away side, will be Preston full back Scott Wiseman and former Portsmouth playmaker Liam Walker, who has just returned to his homeland to sign for league champions Lincoln Red Imps. Goalkeeper Jordan Perez, meanwhile, has highly impressed in his six caps so far, and is certainly one to look out for.
Republic of Ireland boss O’Neill, whose side are 12/1 chances to top Group D, said of his upcoming opponents: “You don’t want to be taking your eye off the ball. This is the important game for us.
“This is a game we have to win. Obviously, we have to win the game. But Poland found it difficult. They scored a host of goals towards the end of the game.
“[Poland] said they’d found it difficult and I wasn’t sure what they meant until I watched the game. Honestly, Gibraltar did cause a problem or two.
“So this idea that it’s just all over? We’re expected to win the game, absolutely. And that’s why I cannot concentrate on anything else other than the game on Saturday.”
Republic of Ireland’s record marksman and cap-gainer Keane is 9/4 to net first. Any Gibraltar player to score the opener, meanwhile, is priced at 12/1.