EURO 2012: Associations to discuss fixtures on March 7

Officials and coaches from the six countries forming part of Group F in the UEFA EURO 2012 qualifiers will be meeting in Athens on March 7 in order to discuss the fixtures for the qualifying round matches. This was revealed by MFA president Dr Joe Mifsud during a press conference on Thursday.

Dr Mifsud said that although the draw is not an easy one, a positive aspect is the fact that in past, Malta did obtain good results against all the other five teams. Malta was in fact drawn with Croatia, Greece, Israel, Latvia and Georgia.

Following changes in the international calendar by FIFA, qualifying matches will no longer be played on Saturdays and Wednesdays. From now onwards, games will be played on Fridays or Saturdays and Tuesdays. The reason behind this change was to give players to return to their clubs on Wednesdays rather than Thursdays.

Photo: © domenic aquilinaDr Mifsud explained that officials and coaches from Croatia, Greece, Israel, Latvia, Georgia and Malta will be meeting in Athens in order to try to reach an agreement over the fixtures. If this is not possible, these would have to be decided by a draw.

The following 12 dates are reserved for group matches in qualifying:
a) 3/4 and 7 September 2010
b) 8/9 and 12 October 2010
c) 25/26 and 29 March 2011
d) 3/4 and 7 June 2011
e) 2/3 and 6 September 2011
f) 7/8 and 11 October 2011

However the 29 March and 7 June dates will probably be excluded, especially in case of no agreement between the six associations. Associations have up to March 16 to inform UEFA about the fixtures. If no decision is taken by then, UEFA would hold a draw to decide the fixture.

Meanwhile in view of these qualifiers, the national team will be playing three friendly matches over the coming weeks. Malta hosts Finland on March 3, then travels to Germany for a friendly match in Aachen on May 13 and finally, Malta hosts another friendly match against Macedonia on August 11.

In the game against Germany, the national team will most probably wear for the first time the new kits by Givova. The MFA president confirmed that the association had signed an agreement with the Italian sportswear company over a technical sponsorship, worth thousands of Euro, which will last four years.

Dr Mifsud said the reason for which the team will not be wearing the new kits immediately was that these will be designed and manufactured specifically for the Maltese national team and therefore the product will have to be designed by the company and then approved by the association.

Photo: © domenic aquilinaSpeaking about the EURO 2012 draw, national coach John Buttigieg said everyone was expecting a difficult draw. He said that the forthcoming friendly matches are very important for the team’s preparation ahead of the qualifiers as it gives players the opportunity to show their value. Therefore it was of utmost importance for the players to do their very best in these matches.

Other national teams will be in action over the coming weeks. The Under-23 national team takes on Belgium on March 31 away from home and Romania at home on April 21 in the International Challenge Trophy.

The Under-21 side faces Belgium away from home on March 3 and Ukraine at home on May 29 in the UEFA Under-21 Championship qualifiers.

The Malta Under-17 side will be taking part in the Elite Round mini-tournament of the UEFA Under-17 Championship. Malta takes on Slovakia on March 27, England on March 29 and Sweden on April 1. The mini-tournament will be held in England. As part of the team’s preparation for this tournament, Malta will play Northern Ireland in two friendly matches next week.

The women’s national team will play another five matches from the FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifiers. Malta hosts Turkey on March 27 before travelling there to face them on April 11. Malta then hosts England on May 20 before playing two matches away from home – against Austria on June 9 and Spain on June 24.

The futsal national team, on the other hand, will take part in a Futsal Friendly International Tournament in England. Malta, Finland, Turkey and England are the four participating countries.

Photos: Copyright © domenic aquilina