Malta today faces Euro 2016 quarterfinalists Iceland
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.
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