‘The Messi of Malta’ warns England ahead of World Cup qualifier
Michael Mifsud savoured football’s ability to deliver the unexpected long before Iceland’s heroics at Euro 2016 tipped England into another fiasco.
Mifsud is the Maltese striker who once silenced Old Trafford with two goals for Coventry as they knocked Manchester United out of the League Cup.
Next day, he was dubbed ‘ The Messi of Malta’ by one Italian newspaper and it remains a cherished memory for the 35-year-old who will win his 120th international cap when he steps out at Wembley today.
“Playing at Old Trafford in front of 75,000 against Manchester United and scoring two goals to knock them out was something special,” he said. “We played really well and everybody was happy. Apart from Sir Alex Ferguson. He was quite mad. He went straight in after the game.” It was a sweet moment for someone who had an unsuccessful trial at United as a teenager and arrived in English football via Germany and Norway, signed by Micky Adams who was sacked as Coventry boss a week after Mif- sud’s arrival. Recounting his personal triumph may inspire confidence but this Malta team, ranked 176 in the world, is not likely to emulate Iceland.
“Iceland is a small nation, smaller than us, but nearly all the players are playing abroad,” said Mifsud. “They did really well in the Euros, but you can’t compare them with us, or us with San Marino. Every nation has its own limitations. Every player goes out to win and it starts 0-0. You have to be realistic because England are a strong side. We’re a small country, we’re the underdogs, but sometimes miracles happen.”
“There’s an element of luck involved. We’ll give our best and enjoy the day. It will be a proud moment for us. England is a big nation with big players. We all saw the manager was sacked and a new manager came in and it affects the squad, but the players can handle it.”