2,000 Maltese fans expected at Wembley Stadium for England-Malta match today
Today, the Maltese national team goes to Wembley Stadium to take on England in their second game of Group F World Cup Qualifiers. Some 1,300 Maltese fans have travelled from Malta to support the boys in red, with the Malta Football Association requesting more seats following a sell-out of the preliminary batch. More than 600 Maltese people who live in England will be joining them, bringing the total number of Maltese supporters at the stadium close to 2,000.
The Malta supporters group, The South End Core, will be kicking off its preparations for the game with a pre-game party at The Torch bar near Wembley at 11am, with the World Cup game starting at 5pm UK time (6pm in Malta).
The hosts have been marred with controversy with the recent sacking of England manager Sam Allardyce following comments he made on FA thirdparty player ownership rules. This comes after a difficult summer for the Three Lions, with the team bowing out of the European championships after an embarrassing shock defeat to Iceland.
Speaking to The Malta Independent, an MFA spokesperson said that this would have no effect on the game, saying “The game is played between 22 players who have nothing to do with the scandals. Both national associations are focused on their priorities and the outcome of the said match will obviously leave an effect on both, either in a positive or a negative way.”
The Maltese team will be looking to capitalize on the uncertainty and scandal surrounding the England setup, with numerous English fans set to hold a protest before and during the game. Ghedin’s boys will be looking to put in a brave performance as was seen against the Scotland team for 60 minutes until the Scots were awarded a controversial penalty kick (there was no contact at all) and the team reduced to 10 men.
Pietro Ghedin, speaking ahead of the clash at Wembley, said “We know it will be a tough game against England. They run a lot, they are very cunning, and for me they are one of the best teams in Europe.
“We will try to give our best every time and I hope we leave the pitch with our head held high knowing we have given everything.”
When discussing interim manager Gareth Southgate, Ghedin said “I know of him, he was an intelligent player and he did well as Under 21 coach. I think he is a good manager.”
Gareth Southgate will be looking to get his England managerial career off to a flying start by injecting the team with some young blood from his days as the U-21 national team coach. Notable inclusions include Marcus Rashford, the 18-year-old sensation who recently scored a hat-trick on his U-21 debut (which Southgate was managing) and Jesse Lingard who he also knows well from his days in the youth setup.
However, Ghedin believes England will be without one of their best players in Adam Lallana, who has been ruled out with a groin injury.
“I love him because he is a cunning player, he gets in the right positions, has good timing,” he said. “There is a knack to do what he does, to score, play the right passes, little onetwos.”
The last time the two teams met was in a pre-Euro 2000 friendly in Malta, which saw England win 2-1, with Malta’s goal coming through an owngoal by goalkeeper Richard Wright.
The only competitive match Malta played against England at Wembley was back in 1971, when Malta had lost 5-0.