13th November 2016
World Cup Qualifier
GSP Stadium, Nicosia, Cyprus
Cyprus v. Gibraltar
This Sunday evening sees the first ever clash between Cyprus and Gibraltar in European World Cup qualification, with both sides languishing at the bottom of the Group H table after three matches, neither side having picked up a point so far.
However, Gibraltar have achieved something that Cyprus are yet to in this current campaign, namely scoring a goal. Cyprus have lost by three to Belgium, and two to both Greece and Bosnia-Herzegovina. That poor start does leave Cyprus above Gibraltar on goal difference however, in spite of Liam Walker’s strike for Gibraltar against Greece.
On the other hand, Gibraltar have lost every single one of their competitive games since joining UEFA three years ago. Whereas Cyprus may be winless in this campaign, but won four matches in Euro 2016 qualifying, including away in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Gibraltar will have to take to the field in Nicosia without their experienced captain Roy Chipolina of Lincoln Red Imps, who misses out through injury, but otherwise the squad is at full strength with one or two youthful additions.
The Cyprus squad is a mix of old campaigners – such as 35-year-old captain Constantinos Charalambides who will collect his 86th cap if selected on Sunday – and a sprinkling of talented youngsters. Notable amongst the second category is 18-year-old Grigoris Kastanos who is a part of the Juventus academy.
Gibraltar coach Jeff Wood is in positive mood ahead of the match, telling the Gibraltar FA website: “We have looked to identify some areas where we believe that they are not so strong…and we will look to exploit these whenever we can.” He does also warn about the pace of the Cypriot front-line, which is an area where the less experienced Gibraltarian defence will have to be on their guard, and keeping up their pace and intensity – as aspect they have been working on in training this week.
Wood continued: “[The Gibraltar supporters] will always get 100% from the players; there is never any doubt about that, as they are immensely proud and passionate about wearing the red and white Gibraltar short. Hopefully we will see some progression on our attacking and possession style of football and implement our game plan. I hope that we can give everyone in Gibraltar a Sunday evening to be proud of.”
Let’s hope so. After the Estonia clash of last month ended in disappointment, Cyprus probably represent the next best opportunity for Gibraltar to sneak a result. They face a side in a lull of their own, and on an away trip where the home crowd tends not to come along in any great number, reserving their more fervent displays for support for their club sides.
I’m stopping short of being optimistic, given the relative strengths of the two sides, but I don’t see this as a cut and dried certain defeat either. There are possibilities for Gibraltar in Cyprus, but, as always, it will be tough.
Other Group H fixtures this Sunday see Belgium face Estonia, while Greece entertain Bosnia-Herzegovina in what will be a crucial match for both.
Europe Group H Standings: