Luxembourg lie 98th in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking
Red Lions have spent the last three years in the Top 100
Daniel Da Mota, who is fast approaching 100 caps, explains why
For more than two months now the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking has remained unchanged as the world battles against Covid-19. Top dogs Belgium look comfortably installed in first place, a position they have occupied for the best part of two years now.
Yet while that is quite an achievement for a relatively small nation of 11 million people, neighbours Luxembourg have themselves been performing impressively in the Ranking in recent times, spending the last three years in the top 100 despite having a population of only 600,000, 18 times smaller than Belgium’s.
“I don’t see it as anything out of the ordinary,” said Red Lions forward Daniel Da Mota. “I think we can go even higher. We should be mixing it with some of the African and Asian teams that currently have a higher ranking than us. It would be interesting to gauge ourselves against them.”
‘Confidence’ has replaced ‘caution’ as the watchword for Luxembourg’s national team, a change in approach brought about in part by recent results, which include goalless draws with France in 2017 and Senegal in 2018 and creditable defeats to Serbia and Portugal in 2019, 3-2 and 2-0 respectively. As performances such as these have shown, the Red Lions can hold their own against the best teams in the world.
“On paper, there are always going to be the so-called ‘little’ teams, but when you get out on the pitch the gap with the big boys really closes up and things level off,” said Da Mota. “The main reason behind that is that most teams in the world now have professional players in their squads, Luxembourg included. Out of a 23-man squad, we’ve got 17 or 18 who are playing at the highest level in competitive leagues in Germany, Belgium and Russia, which helps.”
While that may be true, Luxembourg seem to have come on a lot more than other sides. Back in 2006, they lay a lowly 186th in the World Ranking, since when they have climbed and climbed, with front man Da Mota watching that progress at first hand: “I came into the side in 2007 and I’ve seen a change in our mindset, brought about by our coach, Luc Holtz, who took on the job in 2010. Before he arrived, the objective was not to lose, but he came in and planted this idea that we should play for a result.
“He’s had a big hand in the progress the team’s made,” added Da Mota. “He’s a coach who lives and breathes football. He’s adapted to the technical and tactical developments in the game and then got them across to the players. For the last five years we’ve managed to combine results and performance, and in some games we’ve even had possession of the ball and created more chances than the opposition. We’ve become a team that other sides respect.”
While the Red Lions owe a lot to Holtz, they are also indebted to Da Mota. An ever present for the last 13 seasons, the forward has featured in every UEFA EURO and FIFA World Cup™ qualifying campaign in that time. “Reaching a major football tournament is what every player dreams of,” said the 34-year-old. “And when you look at how far Luxembourg football has come, I don’t see it as a distant dream anymore.”
Da Mota also has his sights set on some personal goals as he approaches his 100th cap and the all-time Luxembourg record of 102, held by Mario Mutsch. “Yes, it’s an objective of mine but it’s not just down to me,” he said ahead of Luxembourg’s next scheduled outings: the UEFA Nations League matches against Montenegro and Azerbaijan in September 2020. “I’ve still got the legs and the desire and if the coach thinks I can still play a role, then obviously I’ll answer the call.”
Expressing his continuing drive and ambition, Da Mota added: “I’m also chasing a dream. I’ve always played as an amateur but I haven’t given up on the idea of turning pro one day, even if it’s just for six months.”