Malta faces Czech Republic in friendly match

Malta faces the Czech Republic in a friendly match at the Kufstein Arena in Kufstein, Austria on Friday, kick-off at 18:00. The first of two friendly matches for Malta in five days against two EURO 2016 finalists as part of the national team’s preparations ahead of next Autumn’s European Qualifiers leading to the 2018 FIFA World Cup. For the Czech Republic, this will be the first of three tests before they leave for France where they will be facing holders Spain, Croatia and Turkey in Group D.

This will be the third friendly match for Malta after the end of the EURO qualifiers where Pietro Ghedin’s side earned two points in two draws with Bulgaria and Azerbaijan. In the two friendly matches, Malta played Jordan in Istanbul last November, losing 0-2, and then drew 0-0 with Moldova at Ta’ Qali in March.

For this game, the Malta coach could not count on the injured Jonathan Caruana and Joseph Zerafa along with Steve Borg. Also missing from the squad which travelled to Austria, via Munich on Wednesday are goalkeeper Andrew Hogg, who has been inactive since January, and Andre Schembri, who is getting married in the coming days.

Ghedin named two new faces – Birkirkara defender Cain Attard – one of three Under-21 internationals along with Ryan Camenzuli and Llywelyn Cremona, and twenty-three year old Barnet winger Luke Gambin who has just acquired his Maltese passport.

Henry Bonello is set to start in goal after a good performance in the last game against Moldova with Ryan Camilleri expected to join Andrei Agius and Zach Muscat as the three central defenders. Clayton Failla should be employed on the left flank with Cain Attard, Clifford Gatt Baldacchino and possibly Roderick Briffa playing on the right.

Rowen Muscat, Bjorn Kristensen and Paul Fenech should start in midfield with Michael Mifsud returning in attack along with Alfred Effiong.

The other players in squad are Justin Haber, Cain Attard, Ryan Camenzuli, Llywelyn Cremona, Steve Pisani, Gareth Sciberras, Jean Paul Farrugia and Luke Gambin.

The Czech Republic reached the EURO 2016 finals after winning Group A which included Iceland, Turkey, Netherlands, Kazakhstan and Latvia. Iceland and Turkey qualified for the finals along with the Czech Republic. They won seven matches and drew one, losing two to Turkey and Iceland.

Czech Republic coach Pavel Vrba named a provisional 28-man squad for the Euro 2016 finals, led by Arsenal duo Petr Cech and Tomas Rosicky, although the latter played only 19 minutes for Arsenal last season because of injuries but he has recently managed three games for the reserve team. Missing only injured Sparta Prague midfielder Martin Frydek, Vrba has called up one newcomer, 20-year-old striker Patrik Schick of Bohemians Prague.

The squad is made up of:
goalkeepers Petr Cech (Arsenal/ENG), Tomas Vaclik (Basel/SUI), Tomas Koubek (Liberec);
defenders Theodor Gebre Selassie (Bremen/GER), Pavel Kaderabek (Hoffenheim/GER), David Limbersky (Viktoria Pilsen), Marek Suchy (Basel/SUI), Michal Kadlec (Fenerbahce/TUR), Tomas Sivok (Bursaspor/TUR), Roman Hubnik (Viktoria Pilsen), Daniel Pudil (Sheffield Wednesday/ENG), Ondrej Zahustel (Sparta Prague);
midfielders Borek Dockal (Sparta Prague), Jiri Skalak (Brighton/ENG), Vladimir Darida (Hertha Berlin/GER), Daniel Kolar (Viktoria Pilsen), Ladislav Krejci (Sparta Prague), Josef Sural (Sparta Prague), David Pavelka (Kasimpasa/TUR), Jaroslav Plasil (Bordeaux/FRA), Lukas Marecek (Sparta Prague), Matej Vydra (Reading/ENG), Tomas Rosicky (Arsenal/ENG), Jan Kovarik (Viktoria Pilsen);
forwards Milan Skoda (Slavia Prague), Tomas Necid (Bursaspor/TUR), David Lafata (Sparta Prague), Patrik Schick (Bohemians Prague).

This will be eleventh clash between Malta and the Czech Republic, including two games against the former Czechoslovakia. Malta managed to obtain three draws at Ta’ Qali – one in April 1985 against Czechoslovakia, one in October 1994 and another in September 1997 against the Czech Republic. Away from home, Malta suffered heavy defeats of 6-1 and 6-0 to the Czech Republic in 1994 and 1996 but lost 2-3 in September 2001 and 1-3 in October 2012. The last meeting goes back to October 2013 where Malta lost 1-4 at Ta’ Qali.

Czech Republic vs Malta will be broadcast on TVM2 on Friday at 18:00.

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