Thursday 22 November 2018, 06:24

Gibraltar rock the Nations League to rise up Ranking

  • Gibraltar reached highest ever Ranking of 190 in latest edition

  • FIFA's newest Member Association achieved back-to-back wins in October

  • Joseph Chipolina grabbed the winner in both games

It is not too often that you make history, and make that feat look ordinary within the space of a few days. Gibraltar, and in particular Joseph Chipolina, did exactly that last month.

On 13 October, Gibraltar achieved their first competitive victory at senior level - a historic 1-0 win away to an Armenia side captained by Arsenal star Henrikh Mkhitaryan. The three points in the UEFA Nations League were sealed with Chipolina's first international goal.

Three days later, at home under the iconic Rock of Gibraltar, the Victoria Stadium was rocking as the hosts secured their second competitive senior win - against Liechtenstein. Scorer of the winning goal? Chipolina, with his second international strike.

The successive victories saw the side rise in the October edition of the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, to their highest ever position of 190th. What was the secret to their success in those two history-making wins?

Defensive masterclass

In Gibraltar's inaugural competitive win, Armenia had a quite remarkable 35 attempts at Kyle Goldwin's goal - ten of which were on target - with 70 dangerous attacks repelled by the steely Gibraltar defence. For players who do not call football a full-time profession, it is quite a feat to reset almost once every 60 seconds and face a new wave of attacking pressure by a professional attacking force led by Mkhitaryan, one of world football's most eminent playmakers.

“I’m very happy with the performance I put in, but the whole team was simply amazing," Goldwin told . "If you look at the stats, yes, they had a lot of shots, but most came from outside the box and that was because my team-mates were phenomenal."

Make the most of possession

Given their professional stature and organised nature, it was no surprise that Armenia dominated possession with 78 per cent of the ball. But even in their second competitive win against fellow 'minnows' Liechtenstein, Gibraltar enjoyed less possession; 44 per cent to the visitors' 56. Despite this, they were ruthless with their opportunities - scoring one of their two shots on target against the Armenians and two of their five efforts on goal against Liechtenstein.

Learning lessons

"It is a big relief. Not only that but reward for the work that we've put in. We're in this together this group is an amazing group right now. We have to keep on working, on this same journey."

The words of historic double goalscorer Chipolina perfectly sum up his side's attitude and work-rate. They are in it together, and are on a learning curve. They were made to pay for competitive inexperience during qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup™. Their three goals on the road to Russia were all meaningful - equalisers against Greece and Cyprus (home and away) - but on all three occasions their concentration slipped and they conceded further goals to see them succumb to defeat, compounded by a record of ten losses in ten during qualifying for the global finals.

Not only did they go ahead for the first time in a competitive game as a FIFA nation against Armenia, and see out that lead to victory, their leveller against Liechtenstein was not squandered, but capitalised upon with Chipolina's historic winner.