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Gibraltar no pushovers after 'memorable' week

Gibraltar's Futsal EURO qualifying bid ended at the first hurdle but, as keeper Julian Fortuna explains, their participation in the competition was still "a dream come true".

The Gibraltar team for UEFA Futsal EURO 2016 preliminary round Group A
The Gibraltar team for UEFA Futsal EURO 2016 preliminary round Group A ©GFA

Gibraltar made their second entry into the UEFA European Futsal Championship last week when participating in UEFA Futsal EURO 2016 preliminary round Group A.

Results may have gone against Peter Moreno's team – with defeats by Greece (3-0), hosts Bulgaria (3-1) and Denmark (9-1) in Blagoevgrad – yet this second competitive assignment for the side from the Rock was an invaluable experience nonetheless. Goalkeeper Julian Fortuna tells UEFA.com all about the Gibraltarians' "emotional and memorable week".

A dream come true ...
"A footballer's dream is always to represent his country at the highest level. Group A was tough – Bulgaria, Greece and Denmark are massive countries compared with Gibraltar's 30,000 population. Nevertheless, the team entered the preliminary phase with the aim of obtaining positive results and trying to qualify for the main round in March."

Motivational speeches ...
"The day of the opening game against Greece was an emotional one for all involved. All but two of the squad were making their debuts at UEFA EURO level, Duane Robba and Jamie Pecino the sole survivors of the squad that travelled to France in 2013 for the 2014 qualifiers. Coach Peter Moreno gave an emotional pep talk, wishing the players the very best in this wonderful adventure we were embarking on. All the players were moved by his words and were ready to take on the Greeks. Captain Christian Sanchez gave another emotional team talk just before we headed out ..."

Hearing the anthem ...
"As we walked out into the stadium, despite a small crowd in attendance, there were obvious nerves for the players. As soon as the Gibraltar national anthem played, I realised exactly where we were and emotions ran high. I held the tears back. My dream, an amateur player representing my country at the highest level, was becoming a reality. We came away with a 3-0 loss to Greece, conceding twice in the last five minutes, but we left feeling we had done our country proud by giving the Greeks a good game."

Standing ovation ...
"The next day, we faced hosts Bulgaria, knowing a sizable crowd would be behind them. The opening-day nerves were gone and we knew we could compete at this level. Five minutes in, Gibraltar took the lead, Ivan Robba's composed finish sending us all into raptures. Despite shipping three goals from set pieces, we battled on, and in the latter stages gave the Bulgarians a fright. It finished 3-1, but as we walked off the Bulgarian fans gave us a standing ovation. Gibraltar had earned the respect of the watching public. Another proud moment for our tiny nation."

Brilliant goal ...
"In the final game against Denmark, we knew they would be going all out for a big win to cement their place in the main round as group winners. We nevertheless went out looking to carry on where we had left off ... Unfortunately, Denmark were just too good and had the right blend of class, efficiency and luck and ran out 9-1 winners. Despite the loss, Justin Collado scored a brilliant goal which we, and he in particular, were delighted about."

We're no pushovers ...
"Although we had played well in the opening two games, the final match against Denmark left us disappointed. However, we can look back fondly on our performances. We showed that Gibraltar, no matter how small, are certainly no pushovers in international futsal. It was a memorable week and the players can't wait to get another taste in two years' time."