“I am confident my players will perform well” – Pietro Ghedin
National coach Pietro Ghedin was confident yesterday that his players would rise to the occasion for today’s match against Slovenia.
The match at the national stadium at Ta’ Qali, kicks off at 8.45pm.
The Italian mentor, speaking one day ahead of the match, told reporters that all his 20 players were available. “We have no injuries, the players are in good physical condition, but it is a fact that 11 of the 20 will start the match. We hope to be competitive and give Slovenia a good run for their money.
“I know that as every other match, this will be a tough one. Their squad is full of players playing away from their country – half of them in Italy.
“But if we stay united and calm, I am sure we will be able to do well and keep our fans happy.
“To do that we will have to fight all the way. In the dressing room, it is evident that we have forgotten the previous three results and performances. Now it is time to do well and achieve something positive. I am confident we will do that also thanks to the motivation of the players,” said Ghedin.
The Italian coach went on to say that Slovenia are another up and coming side. He added: “Last year, they were ranked 27th. Now they are in the same level more or less. They will make it tough for us, but we will be there to play. Of course, they are better than us, but using a flexible formation with the players available, we are aware that we can do well against them,” he said.
Ghedin said there will be some changes to the side that played against Lithuania last month. “Of course, Jonathan Caruana is out of the squad – he is also suspended. But there are some Under 21 players knocking on the door and one, or possibly two, will play,” said Ghedin.
He was referring to Ryan Camenzuli and Samuel Magri, both promoted from the Under 21 squad which did so well in the European qualifying group under Silvio Vella’s charge.
Also back in the side will be Barnet utility player Luke Gambin, who missed the last two matches against England and Lithuania through suspension.
Magri, 22, who was granted Maltese citizenship last year, was quite convincing in his performances at Under 21 level while Ryan Camenzuli has been one of Floriana’s best players in their recent matches after his move on loan from Birkirkara.
Players missing this match are Balzan midfielder Paul Fenech, who is due to undergo knee surgery this week, while Sliema Wanderers duo Alex Muscat and Mark Scerri have pulled out with injuries.
Rowen Muscat, Birkirkara midfielder, said he was aware that Slovenia will not be easy opponents. “I personally had faced some of them when we met in the Under 21 tournament. I know their potential, but we are all in good shape and we are looking forward to start getting points in this qualifying group. We can only do that if we remain united,” he said.
The 11 foreigners issue
Ghedin also spoke briefly about the news that all Premier teams might be able to include 11 foreign players in their squads.
Asked what was his opinion on the news revealed by Valletta FC president Victor Sciriha a day earlier, he said: “I do not yet know exactly what the clubs are after. It is still very early, but it could be good or bad for Maltese football. I think it could be good if the foreigners bought are of a good level because then they will force the locals to be more competitive to earn their berths in their teams, therefore raising their levels. But it could be bad and could go wrong if the foreigners arriving here are not of a good level,” he said.
He however said it was the MFA which will have to decide on the issue. “We need to talk together – coach, MFA and the clubs before any decision has to be taken,” he said.
Goalkeepers: Justin (Floriana), Andrew (Hibs)
Andrei Agius (Hibs), Steve Borg (Valletta), Ryan Camenzuli (Floriana), Ryan Camilleri (Valletta), Clayton Failla (Hibs), Sam Magri (Dover), Zach Muscat (Arezzo), Joseph Zerafa (Birkirkara)
Luke Gambin (Barnet), Bjorn Kristensen (Hibs), Rowen Muscat (Birkirkara), Andre’ Schembri (Boavista), Gareth Sciberras (Birkirkara), Ryan Scicluna (Birkirkara), Steve Pisani (Floriana)
Michael Mifsud (Valletta), Jean Paul Farrugia (Sliema), Alfred Effiong (Balzan). Henry Bonello (Valletta), Samir Arab (Balzan), Daniel Zerafa (Tarxien), Alex Muscat (Sliema), Daniel Zerafa (Tarxien), Paul Fenech (Balzan) and Mark Scerri (Sliema) were left out from the final squad.
Incoming and outgoing MFA General Secretaries Dr. Angelo Chetcuti (left) and Bjorn Vassallo (right) paid a visit to Malta’s training session ahead of Malta’s clash with Slovenia Photo: Domenic Aquilina
Malta coach Pietro Ghedin seems guessing at his tactical formation sheet against Slovenia Photo: Domenic Aquilina