The west African country is among the smallest on the continent but recent junior success, and a consistent export of top playing talent to clubs around the world, is building a foundation they hope to exploit in the coming years. Gambia have played at FIFA competition at both U-17 and U-20 level but never been to a major tournament with their senior side.
Their aim will now be on the 2012 CAF Africa Cup of Nations, where they have reason for optimism after being drawn in the same qualifying group with Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Namibia. They open their campaign with a home match against Namibia in September. One month later they face an away tie at Ouagadougou, where a positive result against the Burkinabe could see the side up for a tilt at reaching the continental showpiece which will be held in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.
Gambia have had their chances in the recent past but a decade ago were languishing in the bottom section of the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking. At the end of 2000, the Scorpions were ranked 155 and five years later had dropped to 164th. However, they have consistently risen since then, reaching a high of 65 last June and are now 92nd in the world, with a rise of three places up from last month.
A sign of their seriousness was the fact that they offered themselves as sparring partners for teams seeking warm-up matches ahead of the 2010 CAF Africa Cup of Nations finals. Gambia played both Tunisia and Angola, beating the formidable north Africans and drawing with the hosts in early January.
Gambia can draw players from across the leagues of Europe and the USA, where there are seven Gambians on the books of Major League Soccer clubs. Their Belgian coach Paul Put has spent the last months travelling extensively to meet with his players, who are based in leagues in Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.
Goalkeeper Pa Dembo Touray has returned to the side after a long hiatus and is set to captain the national team throughout their 2012 qualifying campaign. Touray plays at Djurgarden in Sweden and is among the few veterans left in the team. The remainder hail from the squads that had been to the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Canada, as well as the FIFA U-17 World Cups in Peru and Nigeria.
Calculation of points for a single match
P = M x I x T x C
M: points for Match result
Teams gain 3 points for a victory, 1 point for a draw and 0 points for a defeat. In a penalty shoot-out, the winning team gains 2 points and the losing team gains 1 point.
I: Importance of match
Friendly match (including small competitions): I = 1.0
FIFA World Cup™ qualifier or confederation-level qualifier: I = 2.5
Confederation-level final competition or FIFA Confederations Cup: I = 3.0
FIFA World Cup™ final competition: I = 4.0
T: strength of opposing Team
The strength of the opponents is based on the formula: 200 – the ranking position of the opponents.As an exception to this formula, the team at the top of the ranking is always assigned the value 200 and the teams ranked 150th and below are assigned a minimum value of 50. The ranking position is taken from the opponents’ ranking in the most recently published FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking.
C: strength of Confederation
When calculating matches between teams from different confederations, the mean value of the confederations to which the two competing teams belong is used. The strength of a confederation is calculated on the basis of the number of victories by that confederation at the last three FIFA World Cup™ competitions (see following page). Their values are as follows:
|Points Last Month|
|Points outside Ranking calculation|