Ireland and their fans should enjoy their trip to the Algarve
Martin O’Neill has been appropriately respectful of Friday’s opponents Gibraltar and is urging patience in the opening stages. But he’ll know, deep-down, that he and his side will come in for criticism if they don’t return from the Estadio Algarve with maximum points and a healthy plus in the ‘goals for’ column.
Gibraltar are, in football terms, what UEFA call an emerging nation – the rest of Europe call them cannon-fodder. With a population of just 30,000, the principality is the smallest nation playing under the UEFA banner – it still hasn’t been granted FIFA membership so can’t play in the World Cup.
Most of their squad is drawn from local clubs but midfielder Ryan Gosling plies his trade with Bristol Rovers in League 2. Former goalkeeping coach Jeff Wood is Gibraltar’s third head coach in six months with his predecessor, Scot Davie Wilson, reverting to his role as assistant. He’ll be expected to develop the younger players in his squad while trying to make his team competitive but is facing a difficult job judged on their results so far.
The veteran striker has been in good form recently for LA Galaxy in the MLS and still figures in O’Neill’s plans while John O’Shea could also feature, despite not having kicked a ball in anger for Sunderland this season.
Visiting fans will be treating this fixture as an opportunity to soak up a bit of autumn sun and take in a game of football but it’s a vital fixture for the Irish, who can’t afford any more slip-ups if they are to keep alive hopes of qualification. We are offering 24/5 for a 0-5 correct scoreAdd to betslip and fancy Shane Long to be Ireland’s first goalscorer at 14/5Add to betslip.
The match kicks off at 7.45pm on Friday, September 4th at the Estadio Algarve, Faro
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