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🇬🇮 nutmeg fc #16
Today: Gibraltar to the World Cup, chapter 4
In the previous chapters of Gibraltar to the World Cup: Miguel Perrone is an Argentinian fan and has turned his unbridled passion to the timid Gibraltar team, who are dreaming of qualifying for their first World Cup. He travelled to the Rock for the Euro qualifiers opener, but got the stadium mixed up and ended up watching the game surrounded by Greeks, the rival team of the day. It was a 3-0 defeat, but there is a rematch against the Netherlands in Rotterdam.
The hope of a win against the three-time world runners-up was short-lived. This time I decided not to wait for Miguel to inform me of the score and went to look it up on (space available for sponsors), the sports results app that provides the best information instantly and with the best navigability. Gibraltar had lost 3-0 again.
I called Miguel to get his impressions of the match and he answered the phone agitated, almost breathless. I was happy for him. After the struggles he'd had to run a couple of blocks in the run-up to the Greece game, it was good that he'd decided to start working out.
“No, I'm not running," my friend corrected me, "I'm cutting my toenails”.
I quickly moved on to talking about the Netherlands v. Gibraltar match and thus prevented a visual representation of his toenails from forming in my head. To my surprise, his assessment of the game was very positive. Exceedingly so.
The match had left him with a good feeling for the future. Both for him as a fan and for Gibraltar as a team.
That the opposition was the Netherlands helped. Miguel had begun to have doubts about how much love he could feel for an adopted team. But there's nothing that can make two strangers love each other more than a common enemy. And here came the Oranje.
At right-back was Dumfries, the one who had been most provoking in the penalty shoot-out against Argentina in Qatar. He had even tried to intimidate Lautaro Martinez, who is his team-mate at Inter, when he was about to take his penalty. Miguel had nothing against psychological warfare in a penalty shoot-out, but never against someone you share a dressing room with for the rest of the year.
The captain was van Dijk, who he didn't think was a bad guy, but who had thumped Paredes and missed one of the penalties.
And there was him... unique and unrepeatable, an already legendary figure in Argentinian folklore. The player known worldwide as Weghorst, but who in Argentina is celebrated with another nickname.
The match ended 3-0 in favour of the Netherlands. One goal by Memphis Depay and two by Nathan Aké. However, the Dutch ended up leaving the field with their heads down and muttering to themselves, as if they had lost.
“It's that," Miguel explained to me, "3-0 is a rout all over the world, but not when you're playing Gibraltar at home. Then it's almost like a draw. Or worse”.
It made sense. The Netherlands knew that goal difference was key to qualification and 3-0 was too short for them. But what I didn't understand was Miguel's unbridled optimism. It didn't seem to me that having avoided an outrageous scoreline and not conceding a Weghorst goal merited it.
“Did they play well," I then asked naïvely.
“Well?!" he replied, and although I wasn't seeing him, I vividly imagined his gesture of clasping his fingertips together and waving them up and down. His laughter confirmed the gesture.
On the contrary, Gibraltar had played horribly. It couldn't have been worse, according to Miguel, who justified it with data: 0 shots for, 52 against, 0 corners for, 19 against, 13% possession and, on average, only one successful pass per minute played.
Conclusion: they can't play any worse, which means that the next matches have to be better, no matter what.
The match against the Netherlands was followed by a three-month break and then it was time to host the World Cup runners-up France in Portugal.
Miguel couldn't wait.
“If it gave me such pleasure to see Weghorst go off in a huff for not scoring a goal, imagine when I see Mbappé's face live”.