2,000 Mal­tese fans ex­pected at Wem­b­ley Sta­dium for Eng­land-Malta match to­day

Malta Independent - - NEWS - Ju­lian Bon­nici

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.

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