Malta takes on Liechtenstein in a friendly match at the National Stadium on Wednesday, kick-off at 19:30. This will be the first outing for the team since the last game from the EURO 2012 qualifiers against Israel last October and also the first game for Malta since the termination of the contract of former national coach John Buttigieg and his assistant Carmel Busuttil.
Since then, MFA Technical Director Robert Gatt assumed the responsibilities of national coach on a temporary basis until a new coach is appointed.
Speaking on Tuesday, Robert Gatt said the team will aim at obtaining a positive result against a team which Malta had defeated 7-1 in March 2008 with Malta captain Michael Mifsud scoring five of the goals.
Gatt said he took the opportunity to include some new faces in view of the forthcoming 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers. He said that in collaboration with Under-21 coach Ray ‘Zazu’ Farrugia, he drafted three Under-21 players in the senior squad. He said his main objective was now to find the right balance between new players and experience ones.
Since some of the foreign-based players are not playing regularly for their clubs, Robert Gatt felt that he had to take this opportunity to assess their current form.
The squad includes Justin Haber, Andrei Agius, Luke Dimech, Andre Schembri and Daniel Bogdanovic. For Dimech, this marks his return to the national team after an absence of two-and-a-half years.
Gatt revealed that he could not field all the eighteen players as according to UEFA a maximum of seventeen players are allowed to play.
The Malta caretaker coach said this game should serve as motivation for players to impress the new national coach who is set to be appointed. However players should give their very best in each game, irrespective from the circumstances surrounding a particular game.
Although he is confident about this game, the Malta coach is aware the game would not be easy as it was four years ago. He pointed out that over the past three years, the Liechtenstein players gained further experience and this was clearely shown in the performances and results obtained.
The players selected by Gatt are:
goalkeepers Justin Haber (Kerkyra – GRE), Henry Bonello (Sliema);
defenders Andrei Agius (Latina – ITA), Steve Borg (Valletta), Roderick Briffa (Valletta), Jonathan Caruana (Valletta), Luke Dimech (AEK Larnaca – CYP), Clayton Failla (Hibernians), Alex Muscat (Sliema);
midfielders Edmond Agius (Valletta), Shaun Bajada (Birkirkara), Ryan Fenech (Sliema), Bjorn Kristensen (Hibernians), Gareth Sciberras (Birkirkara);
forwards Daniel Bogdanovic (Blackpool – ENG), Andrew Cohen (Hibernians), Michael Mifsud (Valletta), Andre Schembri (Panionios – GRE).
Malta vs Liechtenstein will be controlled by Welsh officials, namely referee Mark Whitby and assistant referees Mark Dyson and Kim Fisher. Marco Borg is the fourth official.
Entrance for the game is free.
Photos: Copyright © domenic aquilina