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Gibraltar frustrate recent World Cup finalists France to finish with a third 3-0 defeat

Gibraltar provided a solid team performance to walk away with heads held high after frustrating another of the big guns in international football.
The multi million pound worth France team with a star studded team whose players play across the top leagues of Europe were held to a 3-0 victory by Gibraltar. Missing three of their main players Gibraltar had been expected to face a heavy defeat. Julio Ribas side however once again providing proof that the heavy defeat days as the minnows of football, or the ‘pub team’ as once described was now something far behind them as they continue to earn the respect from the big teams in international football.

Gibraltar faced a daunting task as they entered their match against World Cup finalists France, fielding three first eleven debutants. With key players Torrilla, Walker, and Valarino missing, manager Julio Ribas made the decision to start Hartman, El Hmidi, and Pozo. Although all three had previous senior national team minutes, it was their first time starting in the first eleven.

Ribas also surprising leaving key players like Wiseman and De Barr on the bench.

The match took place at the Estadio de Algarve, where four thousand fans had gathered to support Gibraltar. This was a significant turnout, surpassing the numbers seen in their previous match against Greece and just above the capacity of Gibraltar’s Victoria Stadium. The attendance showcased the demand for a larger stadium, emphasizing some of the reasons tabled for the need for the proposed expansion plans.

From the kickoff, it was evident that France would dominate possession, showcasing their strength with a formidable first eleven. Just two minutes into the match, Gibraltar’s blocked pass allowed Hartman to make a promising run at France’s defense. However, his final pass didn’t find its target. France immediately responded, as Giroud received a delivery from the right flank and scored an easy header. Gibraltar’s defense was caught off guard, and France took an early 1-0 lead.

Three minutes later, another dangerous header from France tested Gibraltar’s defense, showing their struggle to contain their opponents. Despite the early setback, Gibraltar gradually settled into their defensive roles after the first ten minutes. They demonstrated resilience, frustrating the French players and limiting their chances.

Gibraltar had a chance to equalize on the 20th minute when they were awarded a free kick. Hartman rose high and bravely made contact with a header that narrowly missed the near post. It was the first time France had to defend against a set piece with numbers.

On the 23rd minute, Gibraltar had a lucky escape when Mbappe failed to make contact with a through ball, having crept behind the defense into open space. Gibraltar’s defense, which had previously struggled against top teams like Germany and Poland, displayed significant improvement. They showed no intimidation and focused on the match, making challenges on French players like Griezmann and Mbappe without fear.

As the game reached the half-hour mark, Gibraltar’s defense had to deal with a header hitting the crossbar, but they had little else to worry about. France’s frustration started to show, and a grab on El Hmidi resulted in a free kick in a non-dangerous area near the halfway line. El Hmidi found himself in the thick of things again when he was fouled with a high foot, which surprisingly went unpunished by the officials.
El Hmidi responded by providing one of Gibraltar best attempts. Collecting the ball on the halfway line, the young player send a lobbed ball over the keeper that surprised everyone. His shot falling just a foot over the crossbar and sending a clear message that Gibraltar were not going down without a fight. The prospect of an equaliser sending shockwaves through France, with their keeper clearly angered at his team allowing the space for the shot at goal to happen.

In the 44th minute, Gibraltar faced a VAR check after the ball struck Roy Chipolina’s arm, and a penalty was awarded to France. Mbappe calmly converted the penalty, giving France a 2-0 lead. The officials’ decision contrasted with their handling of the high foot challenge on El Hmidi, as they didn’t even consult VAR for that incident. Despite Gibraltar’s efforts to frustrate France, they went into halftime trailing by two goals.

Gibraltar started the second half with renewed confidence, making advances and trying to disrupt France’s game. Although they couldn’t make much of their attacks, they gained respect for themselves by holding onto the ball and attempting to breach French lines. France responded by increasing the pressure and dominating possession once again.

With the introduction of experienced players like Annesley and De Barr, Gibraltar aimed to change the dynamics of the match. De Barr’s agility and skill kept the French defense busy at times. Gibraltar took their chances to move forward, but on the 78th minute, Mbappe broke through the flank and sent a low cross into the box. Unfortunately, Mouheli unintentionally deflected the ball into his own net.
As the match progressed, Gibraltar’s goalkeeper Coleing made an important save on the 81st minute, pushing a curled attempt from Dembele out of danger. With ten minutes remaining, Joseph Chipolina replaced Pozo, who had performed admirably in his first time starting in the first eleven.

Gibraltar continued to frustrate France with their tight defense and unwavering focus. The French players wore expressions of disbelief and frustration, evident from their few smiles. Their frustration was further highlighted as Tchouameni struck the woodwork on the 87th minute, followed by Disasi doing the same on the 90th minute.

France found themselves facing two consecutive corners during injury time after Joseph Chipolina earned a free kick, allowing Gibraltar to advance. In the final seconds of the match, the French goalkeeper narrowly escaped punishment when he collided with Joseph Chipolina outside his box.

Although Gibraltar couldn’t find the back of the net, their performance once again added to their growing reputation as a difficult team to play against, despite being considered minnows in comparison to France. It was their third consecutive 3-0 defeat in group matches, with two of those losses coming against powerhouses Netherlands and France. This outcome stood in stark contrast to the early days in UEFA when heavy defeats were frequent against such formidable opposition.

Gibraltar can take pride in their progress, having demonstrated resilience, solid defensive capabilities, and the ability to frustrate top-tier teams. Their performance against France further solidified their reputation as a team that can compete on the international stage, even against formidable opponents.

Gibraltar next play against the Republic of Ireland with the hope of getting a result high on the agenda following their recent form against the Netherlands and France.

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