In view of the last four EURO 2012 qualifiers which will be played over the next two months, the Malta national team will be hosting the Central African Republic in a friendly match at the National Stadium on Wednesday, kick-off at 20:30.
National coach John Buttigieg will be using this game as a good test for the forthcoming EURO 2012 qualifiers against Croatia and Georgia at home next month and October’s clashes with Latvia and Israel.
Speaking on Tuesday, Buttigieg said preparation was far from ideal due to the fact that there were players who practically played no competitive matches in four months as their clubs were involved in the Relegation Pool and others who hardly stopped training this summer due to their club’s commitments in the European competitions. He said that ideally players deserved to have some time to rest during the season but this is becoming increasingly difficult due to the increase of the number of teams in the Premier League, therefore allowing for only one break for Christmas and the New Year.
MFA Technical Director Robert Gatt said the Technical Centre was investigating the various options in this regard and suggested that the one of the options being considered was that of having the football season starting in January. However he admitted that so far there is no consensus on this option.
The national squad resumed training last week.
Floriana striker Christian Caruana is the only uncapped player in the eighteen-man squad for this game. Buttigieg said he has been following this “extremely talented player” over the past year. The Malta coach stressed that he always chooses what he feels are the best players at the moment. Trevor Cilia, who failed to make it the squad for several matches during the last season due to injuries, is back in the squad. Valletta midfielder Jamie Pace and Marsaxlokk defender Carlo Mamo are also back after missing the last game against Greece which Malta lost 3-1 in Piraeus.
On the other hand, there was no place in the squad for Reuben Gauci, Steve Borg, Kenneth Scicluna, Alex Muscat, Paul Fenech, John Mintoff and Ivan Woods.
John Hutchinson was left out of the squad as he will be playing two league matches for his new club Chengdu Blades in China. Buttigieg said allowing him to stay in China was the right decision.
The squad is made up of:
goalkeepers Justin Haber and Andrew Hogg;
defenders Andrei Agius, Roderick Briffa, Jonathan Caruana, Clayton Failla, Edward Herrera, Carlo Mamo and Joseph Zerafa;
midfielders Trevor Cilia, Ryan Fenech, Jamie Pace, Gareth Sciberras;
forwards Andrew Cohen, Michael Mifsud, Christian Caruana, Andre Schembri and Daniel Bogdanovic.
As regards the Central African Republic, Malta coach John Buttigieg admitted having hardly any information. They failed to send DVDs of their games and the only source of information for Buttigieg was therefore the internet.
However as any other African country, he is expecting a physically strong team. The Central African Republic are coming from the French school of football and a number of their players play in Europe, mainly France and Belgium.
Due to ongoing works at the Enclosure side of the National Stadium only the Millennium Stand will be open for the public. The ticket price is €4 for the Millennium A or C Stand.
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