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Dartford FC keeper Deren Ibrahim to face Belgium with Gibraltar in World Cup qualifying

By Steve Tervet

Dartford keeper Deren Ibrahim is about to face the Premier League’s most expensive striker in World Cup qualifying.

Ibrahim is likely to line up against Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku when Gibraltar take on Belgium in Liege next Thursday night.

United paid Everton £75m for Lukaku this summer and Belgium can also call upon a range of English-based stars including Thibaut Courtois, Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen, Kevin De Bruyne, Marouane Fellaini and Michy Batshuayi.

Gibraltar and Dartford goalkeeper Deren Ibrahim Picture: Gibraltar FA/Ian Martinez
Gibraltar and Dartford goalkeeper Deren Ibrahim Picture: Gibraltar FA/Ian Martinez

But this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Ibrahim is one the 26-year-old is relishing.

He said: “Leading up to it, I can be scared, nervous, I can worry about everything but what’s the point?

“The year before last I got a massive injury and thought I might never be able to play in goal again. Now, going into this, it’s something you can only imagine.

“You’ve got to enjoy every moment because in football you never know when things might change. It’s not going to come around too often in my career and it’s felt great leading up to it.

“Capacity at Standard Liege is 35,000 and I’ve been told it’s near enough a sell-out. That’s going to be a great atmosphere.

“Playing against the players they can name in their squad, it’s going to be a surreal experience but you’ve got to remember what you’re there to do.

It's likely to be another busy evening for Deren Ibrahim in the Gibraltar goal Picture: Gibraltar FA/Ian Martinez
It's likely to be another busy evening for Deren Ibrahim in the Gibraltar goal Picture: Gibraltar FA/Ian Martinez

“Hopefully, I can make a few saves and we can give a good account of ourselves as a team.

“We’re not expected to win. Stranger things have happened but we’ve just got to try to be in the game for as long as possible and work as hard as we’ve ever worked.”

Ibrahim, who made his international debut against Belgium last October, has started Gibraltar’s last four qualifiers. They’re bottom of Group H but came within three minutes of recording their first-ever point at home to Cyprus in June.

Ibrahim said: “I feel I’ve become a valid member of the side now. I have more involvement with the squad.

“The mentality’s maybe a little bit different to the guys who play in Gibraltar.

"Liam Walker, who’s probably our best player, got his move to Notts County and he’s started the season well for them.

Deren Ibrahim training with the other Gibraltar goalkeepers Picture: Gibraltar FA/Ian Martinez
Deren Ibrahim training with the other Gibraltar goalkeepers Picture: Gibraltar FA/Ian Martinez

“We are slowly starting to have more players getting the recognition they deserve.”

Gibraltar host Bosnia next Sunday so Ibrahim will miss Dartford’s games against East Thurrock on Monday and Hampton next Saturday.

He said: “When I looked at the fixtures, these were the two I pinpointed, Belgium away and Bosnia at home.

“Belgium away, you’re going to play against quality players and it’s going to be a massive crowd – something I’ve never experienced before.

“Bosnia are a big team. Hopefully, a few of their stars can play and we can put on a good performance.”

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