Wednesday 18 September 2019

Full lowdown on the three visitors to Ferrycarrig

Youths' first opponents are Kazakh outfit BIIK Kazygurt, the most accomplished of the three sides the hosts are scheduled to face. Based out of Shymkent, the national champions were formed back in 2009.

Since becoming Kazygurt seven years ago, having previously been Alma-KTZh, the Kazazhstan champions have produced some stunning results in European competition.

While a 1-1 draw with Barcelona in the first leg of their round of 32 tie last season was impressive, it's their result against Frankfurt one year earlier that is of most concern from a Wexford point of view.

The Germans have won the competition four times, including that year when they met Kazygurt. The Kazakh side drew 2-2 with them in the first leg, before losing the second 4-0.

To put it into context, Frankfurt won their next three ties 9-0, 12-0 and 13-0 on aggregate, on their way to a 2-1 final win against PSG.

Kazygurt currently top their national league, which runs from mid-April to October. Unlike Wexford Youths, they boast players of several different nationalities. If the hosts can get a result in this tie if would really set them up for the two games that follow.

Gintra Universiteies are the second opponent for Wexford. They have played ten matches in the Lithuanian league this season, winning them all, scoring 109 times and conceding just once.

That probably says something about the quality of their national league but Wexford will be somewhat familiar with the challenge that they face, having played and beaten Gintra 1-0 in the group stages in Poland last year.

Gintra actually made the last 16 of the Champions League in the 2014-'15 season, beating Sparta Praha on penalties in the previous round, before exiting 5-2 on aggregate against Danish side Brondby.

Despite winning their national league every season since 2005, that was the only occasion Gintra managed to escaped the qualifying rounds.

Formed in 1999, they have been the dominant force in Lithuanian women's football, winning 14 league titles and ten cups.

Criuleni are the fourth seed in the group, theoretically making them the weakest. However, Youths should not take the Moldavians for granted. They finished first in their national league but it was a tight run thing.

Beaten twice by CS Noroc Nimoreni, Criuleni were given a reprieve because their title rivals lost twice to third-placed PGU SS4-FC Alga Tiraspol, meaning they won the league title, after a 21-game season, by just a point. It was Criuleni's first-ever title.

So to gauge how they will fare in European competition, looking back at previous entries from Moldova should give some clues. 2014 champions Goliador Chisinau lost all three games, conceding 42 times in the process. Their best result was an 11-0 loss to Amazones Dramas of Greece.

Last season Noroc Nimoreni fared rather better.

They lost all three games in a tough group, and their worst result was a 4-0 loss to ZNK Osijek of Croatia.

So if qualification comes down to the last game, Criuleni should be the weakest of the three but nothing can be taken for granted at this level.

Wexford People