Malta to­day faces Euro 2016 quar­ter­fi­nal­ists Ice­land

Malta Independent - - SPORT - Henry Brin­cat Do­minic Aquilina

Malta will be fac­ing Euro 2016 quar­ter­fi­nal­ists Ice­land this evening at the Ta’ Qali national Sta­dium in the fi­nal match this year for the national team.

Ad­dress­ing the press yes­ter­day, national coach Pi­etro Ghedin said: “I ex­pect an­other dif­fi­cult match against Ice­land. Ev­ery­one knows what they achieved in the last Eu­ros and the way they have im­proved over the past 10 years. Tac­ti­cally they are good but phys­i­cally they are even stronger. I hope luck changes our way. Just to give an ex­am­ple, I do ad­mit that we were not good against Scot­land and we de­served to lose, but against Lithua­nia and Slove­nia I do be­lieve we de­served some­thing bet­ter.”

“You can­not change and bring in new play­ers just like that. You have got to pay at­ten­tion. My sys­tem has been on­go­ing for the past three years. My play­ers all know what to do in cer­tain com­plex sit­u­a­tions. Not easy. This is an on­go­ing process. The most re­ward­ing thing we have is our group. What do we want? Do we want to lose 5-0 or 6-0 and get hu­mil­i­ated?

“It is not an easy sit­u­a­tion. No one is per­fect. I am very sorry that re­sults are not com­ing but again I state that this is an on­go­ing process. My play­ers have to stay fo­cused till the fi­nal whis­tle.”

“Here I want to de­fend my team, my play­ers. I love Malta and I want to do my best for Malta. My men­tal­ity is that of win­ning but we have to be ob­jec­tive in this re­gard. Take Schem­bri’s miss against Slove­nia. I would have loved An­dre’ to have scored both for the morale of An­dre’ him­self and all the team but it was not to be. That is foot­ball. I want to keep on fight­ing all the time. I be­lieve in my play­ers be­cause they are just like my fam­ily.”

Michael Mif­sud, who is on the verge of es­tab­lish­ing a new ap­pear­ances’ record – if he plays it will be his 123rd ap­pear­ance for Malta – also ad­dressed the press.

He said: “Ob­vi­ously it is such an hon­our if I get to play this 123rd ap­pear­ance for Malta. But for the rest it will be just an­other match for me and my team mates to do well. When I started off at 17 in my very first match against Al­ba­nia in 2000 I never thought I could reach this mile­stone. I think it is am­ple re­ward for all the hard work I have been through.”

To­day’s match will be the 15th en­counter be­tween the two teams since that 5 June 1982 2-1 win in Messina, Si­cily. It was played there be­cause the MFA was slapped with a one-match ban on play­ing at home. There were two other vic­to­ries for Malta – both with the same 1-0 score­line on 10 Fe­bru­ary 1992 and 4 Fe­bru­ary 2008.

The only other pos­i­tive re­sult was a goal­less home draw in a World Cup group qual­i­fier on 9 Oc­to­ber 2004. Other­wise, there were 10 wins for Ice­land, with the worst re­sult be­ing the 5-0 de­feat suf­fered in Reyk­javik in a friendly match on 27 July 2000.

Malta squad

Goal­keep­ers: Justin Haber (Flo­ri­ana), An­drew Hogg (Hiber­ni­ans).

De­fend­ers: An­drei Agius (Hiber­ni­ans), Steve Borg (Val­letta), Ryan Ca­men­zuli (Flo­ri­ana), Ryan Camil­leri (Val­letta), Clay­ton Failla (Hiber­ni­ans), Sam Ma­gri (Dover Ath­letic), Daniel Zer­afa (Tarx­ien), Joseph Zer­afa (Birkirkara).

Mid­field­ers: Luke Gam­bin (Bar­net), Bjorn Kris­tensen (Hiber­ni­ans), Rowen Mus­cat (Birkirkara), An­dre Schem­bri (Boav­ista), Gareth Sciber­ras (Birkirkara), Ryan Sci­cluna (Birkirkara), Steve Pisani (Flo­ri­ana).

For­wards: Al­fred Ef­fiong (Balzan), Jean Paul Far­ru­gia (Sliema W), Michael Mif­sud (Val­letta).

Michael Mif­sud could well be earn­ing a record-break­ing 123rd ap­pear­ance for Malta against Ice­land Photo: Do­minic Aquilina

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