Today the draw was made for the inaugural UEFA Nations League. A new competition designed to increase competitiveness, removing the abundance of wildly unnecessary friendlies, and allowing countries of a similar standing to compete against each other.
⚽️ 1 DAY TO GO! 🌍
— UEFA Nations League (@UEFAEURO) January 23, 2018
It is vital for the GFA to understand how crucial a competition this is for the growth of the nation. Since Gibraltar were accepted into UEFA progress has significantly slowed down, and there are a number of factors behind this.
- Competing in the Algarve. After the Euro 2016 and World Cup qualifying campaigns it is obvious that this facility is not providing Gibraltar with a home advantage. The atmosphere generated by home support can be the difference in any fixture, and at this juncture Gibraltar simply cannot generate a hostility that will generate nervousness in an opposition. Anyone who was in the Victoria Stadium to watch Lincoln triumph over Celtic will understand the importance of a home advantage.
- Unrealistic opposition. In both of the groups Gibraltar have been drawn in thus far, they have been drawn with incomparable opposition. Nations, such as Germany and Belgium, which are vastly more experienced, and have a much larger pool of talent to select from. When you consider Gibraltar have a population of just over 30,000 and Germany have a population of over 80 million, it simply isn’t a level playing field to compete.
This is why the Nations League has to be taken so seriously, not only does it level the playing field, but it also provides a back door into Euro 2020 for the smaller nations, such as Gibraltar, San Marino, Kosovo, Andorra, who could never realistically aim to qualify in the traditional sense. Winning their group in the Nations League will put Gibraltar into the play offs against fellow group D opposition, for a spot in Euro 2020.
Whereas there was a naive optimism around the first draw for the Euro 2016, where people believed that Scotland would be a comparable opposition, today’s draw against Armenia, Liechtenstein, and Macedonia is comparable. These are teams that Gibraltar can realistically compete against, and there should be a belief that it is possible to top this group.
— Gibraltar FA (@GibraltarFA) January 24, 2018
The Government needs to see this opportunity and press ahead with the design for the new stadium. As much as a statement made in 2017 said Gibraltar would hope to fulfill it’s 2018 commitments in Gibraltar, there doesn’t seem to be much optimism that this will happen. Which is unfortunate, as it would give Gibraltar a chance to debut their new facilities, at home, in a brand new competition.
Obviously if this doesn’t turn out to be the case, then the Government and the GFA need to do all that is within their capabilities to ensure the coaches to Portugal are full.
The time to be underwhelmed and outperformed by the giants of Europe are coming to an end. It’s time to push forward and get Gibraltar into a tournament.