Lëtzebuerg / Luxemburg / Luxembourg
- Capital: Luxembourg City / Stad Lëtzebuerg / Ville de Luxembourg / Luxemburg-Stadt
- Official Languages: Luxembourgish, French, German
- Nicknames: d’Roud Léiwen / Les Lions Rouges / Die Roten Löwen (The Red Lions)
- Association: Luxembourg Football Federation (FLF)
- FIFA Code: LUX
- Best World Cup Result (Men): Not Qualified
- Best World Cup Result (Women): Not Qualified
- Best Euros Result (Men): Not Qualified
- Best Euros Result (Women): Not Qualified
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Men): 82nd (September 2018)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Women): 70th (December 2006)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Men): 195th (August 2006)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Women): 119th (June 2020)
- Most Capped Player: Mario Mutsch – 102 caps
- Top Scorer: Léon Mart – 16 goals
The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is one of Europe’s smallest countries but has a long history in European football having joined FIFA in 1910 and competed in every World Cup and European Championship qualifying campaigns. For the majority of the nation’s footballing history, it has been regarded as a ‘minnow’ within European circles but prone to the odd surprise result now and again. However most recently, there has been a resurgence in all levels of Luxembourgish football, with its club teams improving in European club competitions resulting in F91 Dudelange actually reaching the group stage of the UEFA Europa League. This upturn in club fortunes has naturally improved the performances of the national team with the country’s FIFA rankings risen considerably from the lower echelons of the ranking table to within the top 100 nations.
Luxembourg’s improved fortunes can be clearly seen during the most recent edition of the UEFA Nations League, where they exceeded all expectation to finish second in their Division C group (ahead of Azerbaijan and Cyprus), and missing out on promotion to Division B by just three points. An amazing achievement for a nation who were once considered as the ‘whipping boys’ of European football.
To talk about one of the most improved sides in men’s international football, we interviewed the absolutely excellent Football in Luxembourg. The Twitter account provides “a unique site on Luxembourg’s football life to give you up-to-date information and an insight of Luxembourg’s footballing culture“. To find their social media accounts, follow the links below:
- Football in Luxembourg Twitter: @LuxembourgFooty
Q. Who would you say is your country’s best player and coach/manager of all-time, and the reasonings behind the choices?
That’s the hardest to decide as it’s not easy to compare times when we were beaten by almost anyone with the recent years and the improvement in the 2010s. One of our best players was Léon Mart though, a midfielder who holds the all-time scoring record in the country with 16 goals in 24 matches in the national team (he played in the 1930s and ’40s so there can hardly any picture or video be found about him).
As a manager, my pick is Luc Holtz, the current boss, who’s been at the wheel for a decade now and doing an incredible job, and has helped Luxembourg reach several milestones – at first, some wins against higher-ranked teams, nowadays winning matches quite regularly and almost achieving Division C promotion in the UEFA Nations League – these are things which we couldn’t even dream about before he took the helm.
Q. Who could be regarded as a ‘cult hero’ in terms of the national team both in the past and present?
Daniel da Mota is a cult hero from the past, although he’s still ’only’ 35 – the reason why he counts as a ’past cult hero’ for me is that he doesn’t usually get called up nowadays. He nearly holds the appearance record with 99 caps, and also made the Luxembourgish proud 7 times with his goals, mainly in the most important moments like when we beat Slovakia 2-1 in 2011 thanks to his brace. Dany currently plays for Sona in the Italian 4th tier (the first stint abroad in his whole career) since November.
There isn’t a real proper cult hero in the country amongst the younger generation, unfortunately, but if I’d have to pick one, it’d arguably be Gerson Rodrigues. He is kind of a journeyman striker, now plying his trade in Dynamo Kyiv, but has played in various countries such as the Netherlands, Moldova, Japan, or Turkey despite being only 25 years old.
Q. Of the current team, who would you say is the best player in the Luxembourg national side currently?
Tough decision but given that we only have one player in the big 5 European leagues, he regularly plays, and has just turned 21 – the answer can’t be other than Leandro Barreiro, Mainz’s ball-winning midfielder. Coming up the youth ranks at Erpeldange, he joined Mainz at the age of 17 and has improved significantly since, being part of the senior squad for two years now.
There are several honourable mentions though, like Sparta Rotterdam’s Mica Pinto, or the national team’s captain, Standard Liége right-back Laurent Jans. Lars Gerson can be considered as an unsung hero, being a key cog in Norrköping’s decent 2020 Allsvenskan campaign and a solid reliable performer for the national team as well. Or I could name Stefano Bensi, one of the best players of the Luxembourgish National Division and the first-choice striker for Fola Esch.
Q. How would you describe the current state/performance of the national team?
In a massive upward trajectory. We are the most improved country in Europe if we take a comparative look at the world rankings between now and 15 years ago. We were one of the worst teams on the continent and the same level as Malta, Gibraltar, or Liechtenstein. Now, we’re fighting for a place in the Nations League Division B, and before in the World Cup qualifiers we got into Pot 4, the same category as Bosnia and Herzegovina or Slovenia, just to mention a few. This can be called an unbelievable rapid improvement without any bias I think.
Q. Are there any Luxembourgish players who you think we should be focusing on for the future – who would you say is the most exciting up & coming talent from the country?
I’m confident that it’ll be Luxembourg’s golden generation, and maybe this sentence sounds a bit of an overstatement but we actually have more upcoming young talents playing regularly in higher-ranked leagues. I’ve already named Barreiro above but he’s not the only one. Danel Sinani was a joy to watch in both UEL group stages Dudelange featured. The well-deserved big move came in January 2020 when Norwich City reached a pre-contract agreement with the young winger. Although the Championship side sent Danel to Belgium on loan, he’s getting enough game-time at Beveren and can be called an exciting project at least.
Vincent Thill is also an interesting case. The whole nation puts their faith into the youngest footballer in the Thill family after his two elder brothers are both playing abroad now and we could say both Sébastien’s and Olivier’s careers are successful with them playing in the Russian and the Ukrainian top-flight, respectively. Vincent was also raised by Metz academy, just like many young Luxembourgish talents, and after regularly being loaned out he decided to make a move away from France in September 2020. Portuguese team Nacional da Madeira came calling and he said ‘yes’, which proved to be the right decision, as he’s provided a satisfying amount of playtime and had already accommodated to the new culture and the new country.
My pick for the biggest hidden gem of the country would go to Lenny Almada Correia. The 18-year old Correia made his debut in Fola Esch’s senior team back in November and is highly regarded by both the country’s youth coaches and Fola fans. Personally, I can easily imagine him being called up to the national team within 5 years.
Q. Looking at Luxembourg’s international history, what would you say has been the best game, result or performance for the national team in your opinion?
Let me pick a few. For the first one, the historical 5-4 win over France in 1914 which is still remembered by the supporters, which is fairly understandable given our size and the rarity of results like that.
Also, some of our underdogs wins or draws in the past few years have gained attention and we are proud of that. Under Luc Holtz, we’ve beaten teams like Slovakia, Hungary, or Greece and played a draw against Italy just before their horrific 2014 World Cup campaign.
Q. Likewise, is there a performance or result which is regarded as the team’s lowest point?
Being an incredibly tiny state and footballing country comes with the fact that you won’t get too surprised or pessimistic after a bad result. We have had several 0-9, 0-8, or 0-7 losses but they’re part of our history and everyone knows about them, so we can’t really highlight a single result as the one we should be ashamed of the most.
Q. What are the best and worst things about being a fan of the Luxembourg national team?
The worst feeling is still that scepticism towards our quality from fans around the world. After the World Cup 2022 qualifiers draw I’ve seen us written off by supporters of all our opponents. I think people should start taking us seriously and that’s one of the reasons why I started my Twitter page, to provide the footballing world on social media with regular information about the team. So, if you thought you are reading about a footballing minnow now, you actually aren’t. You’re welcome.
The best is the atmosphere. The fans don’t take games as a matter of life and death and I think that’s much needed in a country where we don’t have a chance in most of our matches. So, we usually expect the worst but hope for the best – and it’s hard to express my feelings after a point gained versus a much bigger side who wrote us off before the match.
Q. Have the fans adopted some kind of unofficial anthem to sing along to before/during/after matches?
Couldn’t really think of anything like that. But Luxembourg fans usually aren’t fully silent either. When we played Portugal in the 2020 European Championships qualifiers, Cristiano Ronaldo had 98 or 99 goals for the national team. So, to troll him a bit, Luxembourgish fans chanted ’Messi, Messi, Messi!’ every time he was on the ball, which was hilarious! Eventually, CR7 got a bit annoyed and couldn’t bag the 100th goal, so our tactic worked.
Q. Do you have a favourite or iconic shirt from the whole time of the national team?
To start with, this years’ home and away kits are one of the bests ever. Those little lions on the home kit, and the pattern of the away one… I fell in love with that. But I’ll pick one from the (not so distant) past instead, and it has to be the red 2017 jersey, with the transverse dark blue line on it. We also achieved some decent results in this shirt, so it definitely calls back some nice memories from that year.
Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of the Luxembourg national team?
My hopes are qualifying for a World Cup or European Championships in 20 years’ time – which isn’t impossible given North Macedonia’s qualification this year. Also, I wish we could spend at least one season in Division B of the UEFA Nations League – and maybe, we’ll prove to be good enough to survive there, which would be a miracle. Generally, I’m confident about our chances of following Iceland’s path and slowly building a decent team that will be able to compete with the elite.
But for the nearer future, all I wish is to get the best out of this exciting generation and this bunch of special players and remain in the path we are, no matter if it’s a long and difficult process to cement our place as one of the better teams of Europe.
A massive villmools merci to the superb Football in Luxembourg account for answering our questions on the d’Roud Léiwen. Remember you can find their excellent social media accounts in the links at the top of the blogpage.
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