Eng­land next for Malta

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

This is where and when the two na­tional foot­ball teams of Eng­land and Malta will step into the il­lus­tri­ous pitch of one of the most iconic of foot­ball sta­dia, Wem­b­ley Sta­dium.

Malta got off to a false start in this 2018 FIFA World Cup Euro­pean qualifying cam­paign, los­ing dras­ti­cally 5-1 to Scot­land at the Na­tional Sta­dium in Ta’ Qali last 4 Septem­ber.

The Malta In­de­pen­dent Sports Team caught up with some mem­bers from the Malta na­tional squad dur­ing their last prepa­ra­tions on home soil be­fore the Malta del­e­ga­tion flew off to Lon­don.

Goal­keeper An­drew Hogg was quite diplo­matic in his views about the match.

“Look­ing for­ward to playing at Wem­b­ley against Eng­land. It will be an­other op­por­tu­nity for Malta to show that we de­serve re­spect in foot­ball, no mat­ter the huge task ahead of us. Ob­vi­ously we are un­der no il­lu­sions. This will be no easy game, but we are Malta and we have got to play for pride yet again.

“Of course one has to keep in mind that we have got our lim­i­ta­tions as a foot­ball na­tion. We will be miss­ing key play­ers like Jonathan Caru­ana, Rod­er­ick Briffa and new guy Luke Gam­bin who are all out through sus­pen­sion and in­jury. All this makes it more dif­fi­cult,” stated “Hog­gie” who was born in KingstonUpon-Thames, 15 kilo­me­tres south of Wem­b­ley, 31 years ago.

Zach Mus­cat is an­other player who will in all prob­a­bil­i­ties start against Eng­land.

The 23-year-old sturdy de­fender, now playing for US Arezzo in the Ital­ian Lega Pro, also spoke to The Malta In­de­pen­dent about Wem­b­ley.

“Well, as in the ma­jor­ity of our matches we will start as out­right un­der­dogs. We must make use of this fact cou­pled with the adren­a­line rush on a day like to­day in our favour and be tac­ti­cally dis­ci­plined in such a way that we may take ad­van­tage of de­ter­min­ing Malta’s chances at episodes dur­ing the course of the match. I am con­fi­dent that this match will bring the best out of us.”

Malta’s pride at stake was again the topic with Birkirkara cap­tain Gareth Sciber­ras: “Walk­ing out at Wem­b­ley is al­ways a player’s dream. Of course we are step­ping at Wem­b­ley to do our ut­most and to en­sure that Malta’s pride will not be dented.”

Cap­tain on this special oc­ca­sion for Malta should be none other than An­dre’ Schem­bri. Schem­bri has been in good form this sea­son with his club Boav­ista in Por­tu­gal’s elite di­vi­sion, the Primeira Liga.

Schem­bri had this to say to the Malta In­de­pen­dent: “Ev­ery in­ter­na­tional fix­ture is dif­fi­cult for Malta es­pe­cially when one has to take into con­sid­er­a­tion the fact that we have to face some of the best play­ers in the world. But in foot­ball ev­ery­thing is pos­si­ble and I have no doubt what­so­ever that we are go­ing to give our best to get a pos­i­tive re­sult against Eng­land.”

Balzan and Malta striker Al­fred Ef­fiong was very pos­i­tive in his state­ment.

“On pa­per Eng­land are clearly the bet­ter team and we start as un­der­dogs but foot­ball is never played on pa­per, it is al­ways played on the pitch of play. We will start the match with 11 play­ers, the same as Eng­land, so we look for­ward to give the English a good run for their money, and fi­nally leave Wem­b­ley Sta­dium with our heads held high at the end of the 90 min­utes.”

We also caught up with David Carabott, still holder of the most num­ber of ap­pear­ances for his coun­try to date – 122, who in­ci­den­tally was the last Mal­tese player to score against Eng­land in the 1-2 home de­feat at the Na­tional Sta­dium in Malta on 3 June, 2000.

“I still re­mem­ber quite vividly that match at the Na­tional Sta­dium. We were awarded two penal­ties in that match. I took them both my­self.

“I scored the first on 29 min­utes mak­ing it 1-1 af­ter Martin Ke­own had put Eng­land ahead six min­utes be­fore. Emily Heskey re­stored the lead for our il­lus­tri­ous vis­i­tors on 75 min­utes. Then we were awarded an­other penalty which I failed to score. I could have made it 2-2 but it was not to be!

“Still, com­ing face to face with such big names as Gary Neville, David Beck­ham, Paul Sc­holes, Alan Shearer and oth­ers on that day, was an ex­pe­ri­ence to trea­sure for the rest of our lives,” stated Carabott.

In­ci­den­tally, Gareth Southgate who is now Eng­land’s coach ad in­terim, had played in that match. He came sub­sti­tuted Martin Ke­own dur­ing that game in Malta in 2000.

On the other hand, Malta’s last ap­pear­ance at Wem­b­ley Sta­dium against Eng­land re­lates back to 12 May, 1971 when the Three Lions ran out 5-0 win­ners with goals from the then likes of Martin Chivers (two goals), Franny Lee, Allen Clarke and Chris Lawler.

The Malta team that started last month’s match against Scot­land Photo: Domenic Aquilina

David Carabott Photo: Domenic Aquilina

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