Sunday 26 April 2020, 08:16

Captain Lima remembers Andorra’s first time

  • Andorra lie 135th in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking winning just seven matches

  • 26 April marks the 20th anniversary of the first victory: a 2-0 defeat of Belarus

  • We look back on that match with Andorra captain Ildefons Lima

For the big clubs and national teams, winning is a habit and becomes almost commonplace. But for some less fortunate sides, victories are so rare that they can be counted on the fingers of both hands.

A case in point is Andorra. As their captain Ildefons Lima explained, beating the opposition is not an everyday occurrence: “We celebrate every win. Anything positive that happens to us is cause for celebration.”

In its 23-year existence, the Andorran national team has recorded a mere seven wins, the first of them coming after four years and 24 matches. It is no surprise that Lima and his team-mates should cherish those moments, and few of them have been as special as that maiden triumph: a 2-0 defeat of Belarus on 26 April 2000. Twenty years on, the evergreen skipper gave his recollections of the day.

Did you know?

  • Lima won his first cap in Andorra’s second international outing and is still going strong at the age of 40.

  • He has scored 11 goals in 128 appearances for his country, both national records.

  • He recently earned a place in the Guinness Book of Records, replacing Ecuador’s Ivan Hurtado as the player with the longest international career: 22 years and 148 days.

  • For 12 years he played alongside his older brother Toni in the Andorra defence.

  • Lima has missed two of his country’s seven wins to date: he was suspended for the 1-0 home win over Macedonia in 2014 and injured for the 1-0 victory away to Liechtenstein in 2018.

  • He is an avid collector of football shirts: “I’ve gone way past 900. I’m wondering where to put them all because I’m running out of space.”

A match to remember

“Just thinking about it gives me goosebumps,” said the Andorra captain. Though the match was only a friendly, he and his side gave it all they had. “There are no such things as friendlies for us. We put everything we have into every game. If we don’t and we switch off, then we might get hammered. So we were pumped up for that game and the Belarusians were a bit more relaxed.”

The first memorable moment of the match came seven minutes into the second half. “I can remember my brother, who was a centre-half, bringing the ball out of defence like [Franz] Beckenbauer used to do,” explained Lima. “Somehow he made it all the way into the box and was fouled.”

Jesus Lucendo stepped up to convert the spot-kick and put Andorra 1-0 up. Then, five minutes later, came the goal that sealed victory.

“Their keeper tried to control the ball but the pitch wasn’t exactly in great condition and Juli Sanchez took it off him to score the second.”

Andorra 2-0 Belarus: Ildefons Lima, of Andorra

“I can even remember who the referee was,” he laughed. “It was [Arturo] Dauden Ibanez of Spain. “I don’t usually remember who they are but this was our first win. We’d never won before that day. We’d come close, but this was a win, and it was 2-0 too. You could even call it comfortable.”

The final whistle triggered jubilant scenes and the celebrations continued with a trip to a restaurant. “We went out to celebrate and I remember thinking that we’d still be remembering this win in a few years. And here we are.”

Andorra and Lima have toasted another six victories since then, the most recent of them coming last year against Moldova, in a UEFA EURO 2020 qualifier. The most special of them all, however, was the 2017 defeat of Hungary in the qualifying competition for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™.

“It all came together and that’s the one I look back on most fondly. They’d just been at the EUROs as well and had reached the quarter-finals [Hungary actually went as far as the round of 16]. They were ranked 50-something in the FIFA Ranking and the only wins I’d been involved in before that were in friendlies, not official matches.”

Kylian Mbappe of France battles for possession with Ildefons Lima of Andorra

Now the wrong side of 40, Lima is coming to the end of his long career: “I’ll keep on going as long as I’ve got something to contribute.”

When football resumes, he hopes to play a part in the qualifiers for Qatar 2022 and to fulfil a long-held dream. “I’d love to win a qualifying match away from home before I retire. Obviously, that won’t be easy because winning at home is hard enough for us as it is. But that would be the one thing I haven’t achieved yet.”

Should it happen, it would be another date to remember for Andorra, another opportunity for them to celebrate in style.

📸Images provided courtesy of El Diari d'Andorra