Malta coach Pietro Ghedin has finalised his 20-man squad for the friendly match against Ukraine, on June 6, and the 2018 World Cup Group F qualifying match away to Slovenia four days later.
Myles Beerman, who has impressed since stepping up to the first team of Scottish Premiership side Glasgow Rangers, has earned his first senior call-up. Aged 18, Beerman, who plays on the left flank, is the youngest player in Ghedin’s squad. He is also one of five foreign-based players along with Sam Magri, Zach Muscat, Luke Gambin and Andre Schembri.
Hibernians midfielder Johann Bezzina, who turned 23 on Tuesday, is the other uncapped player in the Malta squad for this month’s international matches. Bezzina was a member of the Malta U-21 squad that collected a total of 11 points in the last UEFA U-21 Championship qualifying campaign. He was named in the first B squad selected by Ghedin in March.
Photos: Copyright © Paul Zammit Cutajar/MFA
“I believe that we have the right mix of experience and youth,” Ghedin said.
“We want to rely on players who are eager to play for the national team and the Maltese shirt, that is the most important thing. These players have shown great interest and enthusiasm in training over the past two weeks.”
Several established players are making a return to the national team’s fold.
Experienced Hibernians defender Andrei Agius is back after missing the 3-1 home defeat to Slovakia in March due to suspension. Ghedin has awarded a recall to Valletta defender Steve Borg, wing-backs Clayton Failla and Alex Muscat, the captains of Hibernians and Sliema Wanderers respectively, and Balzan FC striker Alfred Effiong.
The Malta coach is satisfied with the work the players are putting in on the training pitch.
“The players had a deserved rest,” Ghedin said.
“They returned to training well-prepared and willing to do their best. They have worked very hard and the preparations are progressing well.”
Jean Paul Farrugia, the Sliema Wanderers forward, is missing after receiving a one-match ban following his sending-off in the defeat to Slovakia.
The Malta contingent leaves for Austria on Sunday.
The friendly match against Ukraine, on June 6 at the Mercur Arena in Graz, Austria, kicks off at 19.00.
The 2018 World Cup qualifier against Slovenia will be staged at Ljubljana’s Stozice Stadium on June 10, starting at 18.00.
Malta are still without a point after five qualifiers while Slovenia are third in Group F with eight points, five behind leaders England and one down on Slovakia.
Slovenia beat Malta 1-0 at the National Stadium on November 13, 2016.
Goalkeepers: Henry Bonello (Birkirkara); Andrew Hogg (Hibernians).
Defenders: Andrei Agius (Hibernians); Myles Beerman (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland); Steve Borg (Valletta); Ryan Camilleri (Valletta); Clayton Failla (Hibernians); Sam Magri (Dover Athletic, England); Alex Muscat (Sliema Wanderers); Zach Muscat (Arezzo, Italy); Joseph Zerafa (Birkirkara).
Midfielders: Johann Bezzina (Hibernians); Paul Fenech (Balzan); Ryan Fenech (Balzan); Bjorn Kristensen (Hibernians); Steve Pisani (Floriana).
Forwards: Alfred Effiong (Balzan); Luke Gambin (Luton Town, England); Michael Mifsud (Valletta); Andrè Schembri (Boavista, Portugal).