The European Championships
This is the smallest nation in UEFA, with a population of around 30,000, and is still not a full FIFA member. and so doesn’t have a FIFA ranking. Despite Spain’s protests, Gibraltar will take part in its first ever UEFA international competition. In its latest friendly, Gibraltar did manage to get its first win in an international match, beating Malta 1-0. It kicks off its qualifying campaign in group D with a home game, played in Portugal, against Poland. Realistically, Gibraltar should win none of their matches, but they will be eying the fixtures against Scotland as the most likely to result in an upset.
La Serenissima, the most serene, is the nickname for San Marino, ranked 208th – last – in FIFA! In 2004, they picked up their only international win, which was against Liechtenstein. San Marino’s job as a footballing nation seems to be that of embarrassing bigger teams. If a team can’t beat San Marino by a hatfull of goals then critics will start calling for a manager to be sacked or a player to be dropped. They are the whipping boys of football and the teams in group E will be expecting to rack up big scores against them.
Ranked 199th by FIFA, this tiny nation has been playing official games since 1996 and while it hasn’t set the world on fire, for a minnow, its record is not too bad. They even managed a competitive 1-0 victory in world Cup 2006 qualifying against Macedonia. They will hope they can surprise one of their opponents at home, relying on a pitch that will be difficult to play on for players used to the pitches in the top leagues. The team most likely to struggle against them in Group B will be Cyprus.
water down: weaken, to reduce the strength of
upset the odds: cause a surprise; do something that surprises the experts
an upset: a surprise, a shock result
a hatful: a lot
whippng boys: a very weak team that often loses by many goals
rack up: to score many goals; to get a big score
set the world on fire: to excite the world; to make people notice you