I haven’t written one of these in a while, but now I am a bit quieter (and bored) with no football on, I have a bit more time (oh no I hear you shout). I was going to write a blog about the Champions League Final in Berlin, but I feel the moment has sort of gone now. Whilst being up late one night last month I randomly looked at the Euro 2016 fixtures on the Saturday & Sunday after Wales were to play Belgium, to see if I could catch a game. The only fixture that looked feasible was Gibraltar versus Germany.
I went on the Gibraltar website and was surprised to see that it was pretty easy to get tickets for the game and and at a reasonable price too, it was going to happen!
Gibraltar only became a UEFA Nation in 2013 and I wrote a blog about them back then (Gibraltar become a UEFA Nation) and in this Qualification campaign before the Germany game had lost all of their games (7-0, 7-0, 3-0, 4-0 & 6-1) scoring one solitary goal – against Scotland in March. A tough test you feel against the World Champions! Though Germany had ‘only’ won 4-0 at home in November 2014. They have been an association since
Where Gibraltar play their non competitive matches
Without too much convincing, I managed to persuade my Twitter friend Emily (who supports Portsmouth) to come along, probably the excitement of seeing ex Portsmouth player Liam Walker play again.
I obviously wasn’t going to miss the Wales game, so I booked the flight from Bristol Airport at 7am the following day. I was hoping I would be smiling all weekend and I wasn’t disappointed as Wales put in a fantastic performance to beat Belgium – ranked 2nd in the FIFA Rankings – 1-0. What a defensive performance and what an atmosphere at the Cardiff City Stadium. I haven’t been able to get ‘Zombie Nation’ (the new adopted song among Welsh fans) out of my head all weekend. I am still trying not to get carried away with all this France talk. YET!
No it wasn’t a dream!
A long night awaited us and a little reminiscent of St Gallen away with the Swans, when I slept at the Airport. The things I do for football eh!? And I don’t even support either team.
As Gibraltar’s ground isn’t up to UEFA standards yet, the National team currently play at the Estadio Algarve – close to Faro. I’m guessing Spain didn’t want to accommodate them…….. Bristol to Faro via EasyJet was around two and a half hours, so bleary eyed we arrived in Faro. The town was like a ghost town, I am guessing most people who visit the Algarve go to the beach at one of the resorts and lie in the sun all day. But this type of thing isn’t for me (as you can see from my non-tanned photos).
A non tanned self on a deserted island in Faro
A German invasion had descended on Faro, unsurprisingly, nobody recognised me from watching 3 German matches at last year’s World Cup though (Haven’t I mentioned I went?). I was wearing the new Swansea kit – the one that looks the same as last season, but painted gold. I did get a few funny looks and a quite few comments of ‘Swansea City’, Emily got one ‘Portsmouth’ and maybe a laugh…..
The Estadio Algarve is in the middle of nowhere and hosted 3 Euro 2014 Matches, Portugal have played 8 matches there and Cardiff City won the Algarve Challenge Cup there a few years back, as their fans like to remind me (beats mentioning 1927 I guess).
Those of you who know me well know I like to be organised with all my trips I go on and I realised that there wasn’t any public transport to and from the ground, so I checked with people who had been there previously and was told a taxi would be the best way there and back. The taxi driver that took us to the ground but didn’t want to pick us up after for some reason. He said there would be ‘loads here after the game’. I remained unconvinced, but more on that later.
The capacity of the Estadio Algarve is 30,000 – the capacity of the whole of Gibraltar. It is an interesting design, with two stands behind each goal uncovered and the other two stands with an interesting shaped roof, probably one of my favourite designed stadia I have been to, after Arena Amazonia in Manuas.
Estadio Algarve, Portugal
It was a lovely evening in Faro and after going through rigorous security, we were in to soak up the pre-match atmosphere. It was a slightly ‘weakened’ German team, if there is such a thing. Manuel Neuer didn’t travel, which gave Dortmund’s Roman Weidenfeller, winning his 5th cap, a chance to play.
The obligatory ‘In the ground a hour early’ photo
Bastian Schweinsteiger, André Schürrle, Mesut Özil and World Cup Final goalscorer Mario Götze all started, with Lucas Podolski and Sami Khedira on the bench. There was no place for Bala Town’s David Artell in the Gibraltar team, but ex Portsmouth player Liam Walker did start (described as a midfield maestro in the programme, but this is not true apparently), with a team consisting of a policeman, a lawyer and a fireman in goal. It had a FA Cup tie feel about it, but in International Football you rarely ever get a big upset. Despite the tired cliché that is always used about there being ‘No easy games in International Football’.
A Faro way from Gibraltar (sorry)
The game started as you would expect, with Germany having all the ball but a lot of stray passes going out of play. Liam Walker did almost score a screamer, which would be made the place go wild. Though on 9 minutes Jonas Hector was brought down for a penalty, but Jordan Perez in goal for Gibraltar made a fantastic save down to his left from captain Bastian Schweinsteiger – this was to become a common theme.
Germans missing penalties – another tired cliché
Gibraltar managed to hold out for 28 minutes until André Schürrle scored after a mistake in the Gibraltar defence, in fairness you would expect the Gibraltan’s heads to go down, but two minutes later Weidenfeller made a great point blank save to deny Bristol Rovers’ Jake Gosling – What a story that would have been! More fantastic saves followed from Perez and it was just 1-0 at half time to the Germans. The Gibraltar fans (or GFA as they liked to sing) were in very good voice and seemed more hopeful than anything.
Gibraltar v Germany – I love the massive shirt in the background
There was a slight delay to the start of the second half as there was a hole in the net, it was the goal Gibraltar would be attacking, so I couldn’t really see it being much of a problem. Delay over it was as you would expect in the 2nd half with Max Kruse of Monchengladbach scoring a few minutes after the kick off, they were 4-0 up after 57 minutes after Gündogan and Bellarabi scored. Gibraltar did force a few more saves from Weidenfeller but as their defence tired, Kruse added another and Schürrle completed his hatrick (as a side note I have seen Schurrle score 6 times in the 5 times I have seen him play live and I’m not really a fan of him). It is the easiest hatrick he will ever score mind.
Gibraltar’s defence not as solid as a rock (sorry again)
In the end it was a routine and expected win for the World Champions Germany, Gibraltar did play very well in the first half and deserved at least a goal but it wasn’t to be. Their keeper was Man of the Match for me, even though he conceded 7 goals. I liked their fans, they travelled in good numbers considering the distance they had to travel for their ‘home’ game. It would be good to see what sort of attendance they would get in Gibraltar when their ground is up to standard. They aren’t allowed to compete in the World Cup as they are not FIFA affiliated, so the Euro 2020 tournament will be their next chance at qualifying for something.
The Liam Walker fanclub (I don’t think he noticed though)
As I said I wasn’t convinced by the taxi driver’s optimism that there would be taxis available after the game and I was right. We go outside and there is chaos, no taxis, confusion showing on most people’s faces. The stereotype is that Germans are efficient, but not the ones in Faro! I was more annoyed as I sort of knew this would happen, but I was out of ideas on what to do.
A quick Google Map search showed that it was a ‘mere’ 2 and a half hour walk back to the hotel from the ground, I rung a few taxi companies but they didn’t seem interested and in fairness I didn’t really know where I was. There were no other hotels or restaurants nearby to go to, so we were stranded with hundreds of other Germans. How fans have coped in the other matches played there I do not know. As chance would have it, around a hour and a half after the game, a taxi turned up and whoever it was due to pick up wasn’t there and we asked if he would take us to Faro and he did. Phew! Panic over.
Hopefully this situation will be sorted before the Irish and the Scots go over there in September and October this year. You’re probably best off renting a car.
At least we did get back to the hotel in the end and safely, sadly a coach carrying Gibraltar fans crashed on the way back, killing 1 and injuring others. That is never nice to hear.
Sunday was really a day of rest and exploring some of the islands around Faro, after the taxi escapade the previous night I didn’t want to risk going too far outside Faro! So went on an island tour. The driver of the speedboat we went on knew that Wales had beaten Belgium, but seemed a bit confused as to why we chose to go to the Gibraltar game and even more surprised that we actually went to the Wales game on the Friday as well. But like when I tell people I am 28, I get confused, strange looks a lot.
Ria Formosa, Faro
So after 70 football matches attended this season, I can now relax for 3 weeks until my next game, which will be the mighty Incheon versus Seongnam in the South Korean League on July 12th. You’re all insanely jealous, I can tell.