Ribas places youngsters at forefront (inclusive full image gallery of last training session)
Undaunted and ready to be called upon. These was the reaction of two of the youngest players in the Gibraltar national squad, Dylan Borge and Julian Valarino, who were called upon by Gibraltar’s national team head coach Julio Ribas to be the focal point of Tuesday’s pre-match press conference.
The two players were a clear illustration of Riba’s intentions of bringing in new blood into the squad with a view towards the future. As he explained at the press conference the triple header was a “chance to be prepared and reinforced with everything” in which having “thirty or forty players” was necessary as he “did not know what to expect with the three matches coming up and needed to be ready for all eventualities.” This allowed for the Gibraltar national coach to also bring in new blood into the team. Although new faces Ribas highlighted how the players themselves had been within his radar for some time. “I have been following them for some time, since they have been playing in junior football” he admitted. “I have all the confidence in them playing at the highest level.”
Ribas, aware that some of his present squad had players reaching the final years of their career acknowledged that bringing in youth meant that he was already looking at their eventual departure.
With respect to the forthcoming matched, the European qualifiers he said was a continuation of his plans to “keep growing” and “developing” the team. Ribas believed this was the challenge they were now facing in every match even though they had been promoted in the nations league, the continuation of their development was still the main challenge the players faced.
“It’s a big step-up Julio has prepared us very well both physically and mentally,” commented Julian Valarino, who although having already seen international football with the Under 21’s was now within the main fringes of the senior squad with his selection into the forty-man squad.
For a player like Dylan Borge, who admitted that his club coach had indeed been protecting him this season by playing him for sixty minutes and not the full ninety minutes he was confident he was being guided in the correct route and was honoured to being a part of the national squad.
Borge openly recognising as “correct” the manner in which he was being managed at club level which had allowed him to progress into the national squad. Admittedly “a big step up”, both young players were confident that they would not be phased by the prospect of playing against players such as Haaland if called upon, although as Julian Valarino admitted “it was a big step up from playing in the under 21s.”
Both players were later to be praised for the maturity both showed during the press conference, their first real encounter in front of the limelight and in which both young players were undaunted by the questions or cameras.
Gibraltar’s national team conducted on Tuesday morning what was their final training session before this Wednesday’s match against Norway. Buoyed by the presence of both Louie Annesely and Dayle Coleing, both of whom had arrived from playing in England and Northern Ireland Riba’s has a full squad from which to count with.
Although he was managing a forty-man squad, the numbers had already been reduced with some players allowed to momentarily return to their clubs for training but with a view of being on standby in case they were required to be called upon to enter the squad after Gibraltar completes their first match.
Although most of the squad have had less than a month to prepare after a two-month lockdown with no football or training during that period, there was a confident, buoyant mood within the squad.
Norway presents itself as the biggest test since Gibraltar was promoted to League C in the Nations League at the end of last year. The first international match since they obtained promotion and a chance to continue “growing and challenging themselves at every match” as Ribas professed.
Gibraltar’s match against Norway kicked off at 2045 and is hoped will be the last match before spectators return to the stands next week.
Images by Stephen Ignacio