Just over 10 years ago, Gibraltar were granted UEFA membership before entering the European Championship qualifiers for the first time a year later. However, after 20 qualification matches they are still searching for their first point let alone their first victory.
Indeed, the British Overseas Territory have lost all of their Euros qualifiers by an aggregate score of 93-5, including back-to-back 3-0 defeats against Greece and the Netherlands in their opening two fixtures of the 2024 campaign in March.
Julio Cesar Ribas’s side were 2-0 down against the Netherlands before Liam Walker was shown a straight red card six minutes after half time for a high tackle, and the Oranje went on to seal the victory with a deflected strike from Nathan Ake – his second goal of the match – eight minutes from time.
Unsurprisingly, Gibraltar sit bottom of Group B and they are expected to remain as the basement team unless they can take a few major scalps; an away clash next Monday with the Republic of Ireland, who sit level on zero points as things stand, is sure to be targeted by Ribas.
Before then, Gibraltar will play host to France at the Estadio Algarve in Portugal as their home venue Victoria Stadium does not meet the necessary requirements to host a UEFA fixture. The European minnows have never locked horns with Les Bleus before and they will regarded as huge underdogs on Friday.
Six months on from their heartbreaking World Cup final defeat on penalties to Argentina, France are sitting pretty at the top of their Euro 2024 qualification group after winning their opening two games against the Netherlands and the Republic of Ireland without reply.
A thumping 4-0 home victory over the Oranje in March, which saw newly-appointed captain Kylian Mbappescore twice, was followed just three days later by a narrow 1-0 win away against the Boys in Green, courtesy of a stunning long-range strike from Benjamin Pavard.
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Didier Deschamps’s men are firm favourites to consolidate top spot in Group B, as they sit three points clear of both Greece and the Netherlands who face each other on Friday, with Les Bleus then taking on the former in Paris next Monday.
France are unbeaten in each of their last nine European Championship qualifiers and have only lost one of their last 21 such fixtures over the last 13 years, while they have won each of their last four away qualifiers without conceding, although all four were against nations ranked outside the top 45.
Deschamps is sure to warn his players against complacency on Friday, but few will envisage Les Bleus coming up short against a Gibraltar outfit ranked 199 places below them