'If we are minnows then so are Brazil' says Gibraltar boss
AS THEY prepare to play their first-ever competitive away international, the Gibraltar camp use phrases like "a dream come true" when asked about the prospect of playing on the biggest stage of their careers so far.
But the men from the bottom-ranked side in European football have also made a staunch defence of their presence here in Dublin.
And while there is a slight touch of wide-eyed innocence as their players - all part-timers bar one - play in a 50,000 capacity stadium, Gibraltar have promised that despite being tourists when it comes to international football they will not park the bus on the pitch at Lansdowne Road tonight.
"It's stunning," says team captain Roy Chipolina, a customs official by day, when asked about the visit to the Dublin 4 venue.
"It's a fantastic opportunity to be in the Aviva Stadium, all of our home matches so far have been in Portugal so the atmosphere here tomorrow will be surreal and we're all looking forward to it."
A 7-0 loss to Poland in their opening game was a rude awakening for Gibraltar, but boss Allen Bula feels that was not a true reflection of his side and that their form before that was more accurate.
"A win and two draws in our first five matches shows that we are not there to park the bus but instead to play the best football we can," says Bula as he prepares to go head to head with Martin O'Neill today.
"We learned a lot from the Poland game and we will take the positives from it. You can't lose concentration at this level,
"We lost the match in the first 10 minutes of the second half. If we maintain our shape and discpline, the way we played in the first 45 minutes against Poland, we can give a game to anyone.
"I feel that we made Poland look better than they are and that's a shame but it's a learning curve for us."
With only 500 registered players in a nation which has a population similar in size to Leitrim, it has been asked whether teams like Gibraltar should be here but Bula defends the team's presence - and wants to ditch the 'minnows' tag.
"Should Brazil be classed a minnow now?" he says. "It's something that keeps cropping up and I keep on asking the same question to these people.
"How do a judge a minnow? Do you judge it by the size of the country, or the result - because if the result was the case then Brazil would be a minnow because they lost 7-0."
"So that's my argument. We all deserve to be here and as long as we can give a good performance, then why should we pre-qualify?
"All of us have to prepare and every single manager that's with a national team goes into a tournament, in this case Euro 2016 in France, aiming to reach what's at the end of the tunnel.
"This argument keeps on coming up and to be honest with you, I'm getting a bit tired of the managers saying this. And I think what it is is that that they're scared of the so-called minnows, because look at the results lately by the minnows."