Another international football break
The Gibraltar football league takes another break as the national squads prepare for their matches this month. With just six rounds of the league played and four international matches played since September, alongside the European competitions, the maximum official competitive time any of Gibraltar’s top players will have played this season will have been just under 1000 minutes. This a sharp contrast to players they will be facing who will have accumulated similar figures solely in their domestic league, excluding cup matches, European competitions and internationals.
With the Gibraltar squad known also to be depleted with Bernardo Lope, Graeme Torrilla and Julian Valarino among those injured and players such as Tjay De Barr and Jayce Olivero not getting regular first eleven games with their clubs, Gibraltar will once again enter their matches against France and Netherlands on a backfoot.
Although the squad will have been boosted by their performances in previous rounds against their two opponents in which they frustrated both to mere 3-0 defeats, their next matches will now become a further challenge.
Both France and Netherlands will want to prove themselves on the field against Gibraltar with goal difference starting to become a crucial factor as the group matches come to its finale.
France, who have already qualified will be playing for pride having assured their place in the UEFA Euros 2024.
The Netherlands, however, will still have to wait for the final matches. Although assured at least a play-off spot alongside Greece, the Netherlands will need to secure points and increase their goal difference if they are to fend off the challenge from Greece for second place in the group.
Gibraltar with no points, six defeats and a goal difference of minus 21 will most likely be looking once again to reduce the deficit. Although this will unlikely receive continued criticism from its followers where a growing sector question the validity of playing purely to defend and with no attacking options.
Julio Ribas, however, continues to face a daunting task, made worse this season with the reduction of home-grown players on the field in the domestic league.
With clubs now allowed to field just four home grown players, the Gibraltar national team selector will have seen the pool of players who have adequate number of minutes under their belt significantly reduced. This further adding to the dilemmas in selection.
Gibraltar plays France next on November 18th in France with the Netherlands on November 21st in Faro.
With a passing accuracy of just 63.5% and only a 30.4% possession across its Group B matches Gibraltar will need to improve on its record to fend off the threat from its next two opponents.
Astoundingly Gibraltar has seen an average of 7.17 saves per match, a total of 43 saves in six matches.
It has also earned just six yellow cards in the six matches and one red card, something which has surprised many with Gibraltar primarily defending in matches. This questioning whether Gibraltar’s players are aggressive enough on the field.
Critics have also questioned tactics which has seen Gibraltar play primarily with nine in defence. This is highlighted its shortfall in attack.
In six matches Gibraltar has had just ten attempts on goal, two of which were on target with seven off target and one blocked. A statistic which many feel should reflect that for one match and not six.
It has not hit the woodwork once in the six matches, whilst only earning five corners in all six matches.
Its failings have also been seen in its distribution where a 63.5 % passing accuracy has been accompanied by a 30.34% possession rate.
From 1177 passes only 768 have been completed with only a 15% crossing accuracy.
Defensively Gibraltar in its six matches have seen an astounding 274 clearances, 52 blocks and 56 tackles with 63 attempts conceded on target.
Whilst it has suffered 53 fouls in its six matches, it has only committed 34 fouls, something which could put them in line for the fair play award.
Gibraltar will have three months following the group qualifiers to pick themselves up and restore their confidence. They face Cyprus in March 2024 where they will play to stay in League C or dorp to League D.