Malta national coach Tom Saintfiet named a twenty five man squad ahead of the two friendly matches against Luxembourg at the National on March 22 and against Finland at the Gloria Sports Arena in Belek, Turkey on March 26. The squad will be reduced to twenty three at the end of the week.
A new face in the squad is Maltese-Australian striker Mitchell Mallia. The twenty-five year old is a product of Central Coast Mariners and apart from making an appearance for their senior side, he played for Marconi Stallions, Sydney FC and Blacktown City. While at Blacktown City, he had a short spell with Perth Glory.
Mallia played for the Australia Under-17 and Under-23 national teams and for this reason, he needs the clearance by FIFA to turn out for Malta. Although the necessary documents had been submitted, these have to go through a screening process and the international body is yet to clear the player to play for Malta but Saintfiet said that even if it does not arrive in time, Mallia will still stay to train with the squad.
He said he has been in contact with Mitchell Mallia since October and apart from watching him on video, Saintfiet consulted with people in Australia over his performances.
“I believe he should be a good addition for the national team. We do not have much left-footed players and therefore he should be a useful addition for our team.”
Defender Sam Magri of Ebbsfleet United sustained an injury during the weekend and most probably will have to be dropped. On the other hand, Jean Borg of Valletta is available for the match against Luxembourg before he joins the Under-21 side for the UEFA qualifier against Turkey.
Malta coach Tom Saintfiet said Luxembourg and Finland were quite similar to the teams which Malta will be facing in the UEFA Nations League in autumn where the national team was drawn in a group along with the Faroe Islands, Kosovo and Azerbaijan.
Saintfiet said that Luxembourg, currently ranked 83rd, did impressive improvement in recent years for such a small country and have no less than sixteen players playing abroad. Finland, on the other hand, are ranked 66th.
“Our aim is to win games in the UEFA Nations League and we have to start by getting positive result from such matches.”
Referring to last November’s friendly match against Estonia, which Malta lost 0-3, Saintfiet said that although the result was disappointing, he was satisfied with the performance of the new players. He said that he will be using these friendly matches and those which will be held during the training camp in Austria to test new players.
“The players who are not here were not left out because they have disappointed but I want to see other players.”
Ryan Fenech of Balzan, Johann Bezzina and Bjorn Kristensen of Hibernians were left out as they are recovering from injuries with the Malta coach stressing that he would not risk utilizing players who are not fully fit.
Tom Saintfiet admitted that most of foreign based players were not playing much and therefore one had to see how fit they were although one had to take into account the fact that they still train on a professional basis. He said that even as regards locally-based players, there were some players who were not playing regularly for their clubs.
“We analysed the Estonia game and we were very disappointed with the result. We created nine scoring chances but we did not score and conceded easy goals. We will play to win games. This is our intention. Our ambition is to win games, create chances and score goals,” said Saintfiet.
“We will have the same offensive mindset but we will probably field a different formation,” added the Malta coach.
“These are two very interesting games. We are prepared for UEFA Nations League. We want to win games and therefore now we need to find the right formation. We want to play not to lose but play to win,” stressed the Malta coach.
The players selected by Saintfiet are:
goalkeepers Henry Bonello (Valletta), Andrew Hogg (Hibernians), Steve Sultana (Hamrun);
defenders Andrei Agius (Hibernians), Cain Attard (Birkirkara), Myles Beerman (Queen of the South), Jean Borg (Valletta), Steve Borg (Valletta), Ryan Camilleri (Valletta), Sam Magri (Ebbsfleet United), Zach Muscat (Arezzo), Michael Johnson (Balzan), Joseph Zerafa (Valletta);
midfielders Roderick Briffa (Gzira), Triston Caruana (Hamrun), Paul Fenech (Balzan), Luke Gambin (Luton Town), Mitchell Mallia (Blacktown City), Rowen Muscat (Valletta), Steve Pisani (Floriana);
forwards Siraj Arab Eddin (Balzan), Alfred Effiong (Balzan), Jean Paul Farrugia (Chiasso), Michael Mifsud (Valletta), Andre Schembri (Apollon Limassol).
Malta vs Luxembourg will be played at the National Stadium on Thursday 22nd, kick-off at 18:00. Tickets cost €5 while club season card holders and children under the age of 12 enter for free.