England next for Malta
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