Malta was drawn in Group F along with England, Slovakia, Scotland, Slovenia and Lithuania in the European Zone Preliminary Draw for the 2018 FIFA World Cup™ which was held at the Konstantin Palace in St. Petersburg on Saturday.
Fifty-two of Europe’s fifty-four teams were involved in the Preliminary Draw, with the only exceptions being Russia who qualify automatically as hosts and Gibraltar who are not yet members of FIFA.
Teams were put into seven groups of six teams and two groups of five teams, with each team playing each other home and away between 4 September 2016 and 10 October 2017.
The nine group winners advance directly to the final tournament while the eight runners-up with the best record against the teams first, third, fourth and fifth in their groups proceed to play-offs to decide the remaining four European berths.
This will only be the fourth time, Malta will be facing England after a narrow 0-1 defeat at the Gzira Stadium in February 1971 and a 5-0 defeat at Wembley Stadium in May 1971 in two European Championship qualifiers. In June 2000, England defeated Malta 2-1 in a friendly match at Ta’ Qali.
Malta and Slovakia met six times – four friendly matches and two World Cup qualifiers. Slovakia defeated Malta 2-1 in a friendly match in March 1994 at Ta’ Qali but then Malta held Slovakia in a 1-1 draw in August 1994. In the World Cup qualifiers leading to France 1998, Slovakia defeated Malta 6-0 in September 1996 and in March 1997, Slovakia won 2-0 at Ta’ Qali. In another two friendly matches, Slvakia won 3-0 in August 2006 and 1-0 in September 2014.
Malta and Scotland met five times. In the World Cup qualifiers leading to USA 194, Scotland beat Malta 3-0 at home and won 2-0 at Ta’ Qali. In friendly matches, Malta held Scotland in a 1-1 draw in March 1998, lost 1-2 in May 1990 and lost 2-3 in June 1997.
Malta hosted Slovenia twice in the Rothmans Tournament, losing 0-1 in February 1994 and holding them in a goalless draw in February 1996. In the European Championship 2004 qualifiers, Slvoania beat Malta 3-0 at home and 3-1 at Ta’ Qali.
Malta and Lithuania will be facing each other in a competitive match for the first time although the two countries met in three friendly matches – the last one last month, won by Malta 2-0. In February 2002, Malta and Lithuania shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw in the Rothmans Tournament while in November 2006, Lithuania beat Malta 4-1 at the Hibernians Stadium.
Group A: Netherlands, France, Sweden, Bulgaria, Belarus, Luxembourg
Group B: Portugal, Switzerland, Hungary, Faroe Islands, Latvia, Andorra
Group C: Germany, Czech Republic, Northern Ireland, Norway, Azerbaijan, San Marino
Group D: Wales, Austria, Serbia, Republic of Ireland, Moldova, Georgia
Group E: Romania, Denmark, Poland, Montenegro, Armenia, Kazakhstan
Group F: England, Slovakia, Scotland, Slovenia, Lithuania, Malta
Group G: Spain, Italy, Albania, Israel, FYR Macedonia, Liechtenstein
Group H: Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Greece, Estonia, Cyprus
Group I: Croatia, Iceland, Ukraine, Turkey, Finland
The fixture list will be confirmed on Sunday 26 July.
Matchday 1: 4–6 September 2016
Matchday 2: 6–8 October 2016
Matchday 3: 9–11 October 2016
Matchday 4: 11–13 November 2016
Matchday 5: 24–26 March 2017
Matchday 6: 9–11 June 2017
Matchday 7: 31 August–2 September 2017
Matchday 8: 3–5 September 2017
Matchday 9: 5–7 October 2017
Matchday 10: 8–10 October 2017
Play-off first leg: 9–11 November 2017
Play-off second leg: 12–14 November 2017
Final tournament (Russia): 14 June–15 July 2018