Difficult test for national team in Aachen

It will definitely a most difficult task for Malta as the national team takes on Germany in a friendly match at the Tivoli Stadion in Aachen on Thursday, kick-off at 18:00.

Malta coach John Buttigieg will be using this game as another important test ahead of the EURO 2012 qualifiers which get underway in September. On the other hand, for the Germans, this game forms part of the team’s final preparation ahead of next month’s 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

After the World Cup qualifying stage came to an end in October, Malta played a friendly match against Bulgaria in November, losing 1-4 at the Hibernians Stadium. Another test for John Buttigieg’s side was a friendly game against Finland which Malta lost 1-2 at Ta’ Qali.

Buttigieg is not expected to make much changes from the team which lost to Finland, opting for a 4-2-3-1 formation with Alex Muscat, Andrei Agius, Kenneth Scicluna and Clayton Failla at the back, in front of goalkeeper Justin Haber, Jamie Pace and Ryan Fenech as holding midfielders and three midfielders behind striker Michael Mifsud. Trevor Cilia could be preferred to Roderick Briffa with Daniel Bogdanovic and Andrew Cohen probably being the other two players in midfield. Shaun Bajada, on the other hand, could replace Failla on the left flank.

The players selected by Buttigieg and his assistant Carmel Busuttil are:
goalkeepers Justin Haber (Ferencvaros), Andrew Hogg (Valletta);
defenders Edward Herrera (Hibs), Alex Muscat (Sliema), Clayton Failla (Sliema), Shaun Bajada (Birkirkara), Kenneth Scicluna (Valletta), Jonathan Caruana (Hibs), Andrei Agius (Melfi);
midfielders Massimo Grima (Qormi), Jamie Pace (Valletta), Ryan Fenech (Sliema), Trevor Cilia (Birkirkara), Roderick Briffa (Valletta), Ivan Woods (Sliema);
forwards Michael Mifsud (Valletta), Daniel Bogdanovic (Barnsley), Andrew Cohen (Hibs).

Meanwhile German coach Joachim Loew could not field his best formation due to the absence of all Bayern Munich and Werder Bremen players as the two teams will be playing in the final of the German Cup together with Chelsea’s Michael Ballack.

Loew named five young players, to make up for the absence of these players, namely Borussia Dortmund’s Kevin Großkreutz and Mats Hummels, Stefan Reinartz of Bayer Leverkusen, Marco Reus of Borussia Moenchengladbach and goalie Tobias Sippel of Kaiserslautern.

Sippel and Hummels were part of the Under-21 squad in the last European Championship while Reinartz formed part of the German squad which won the European Championship in 2008.

The German squad is therefore made up of:
goalkeepers Manuel Neuer (Schalke 04), Tobias Sippel (1. FC Kaiserslautern);
defenders Dennis Aogo (Hamburger SV), Andreas Beck (1899 Hoffenheim), Jerome Boateng (Hamburger SV), Arne Friedrich (Hertha BSC), Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund), Marcell Jansen (Hamburger SV), Stefan Reinartz (Bayer Leverkusen), Serdar Tasci (VfB Stuttgart), Heiko Westermann (Schalke 04);
midfielders Kevin Großkreutz (Borussia Dortmund), Sami Khedira (VfB Stuttgart), Toni Kroos (Bayer Leverkusen), Marco Reus (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Christian Träsch (VfB Stuttgart), Piotr Trochowski (Hamburger SV);
forwards Cacau (VfB Stuttgart), Stefan Kießling (Bayer Leverkusen), Lukas Podolski (1. FC Köln).

This will be the ninth clash between Malta and Germany. There were six clashes in European Championship and World Cup qualifiers between Malta and West Germany between 1974 and 1985 with the Germans winning easily in the three games played at home – 8-0 in 1976, 8-0 in 1980 and 6-0 in 1985.

In recent years, Malta met Germany twice. Following a narrow 1-2 defeat in September 1998, the boys in red suffered a heavy 7-0 defeat on May 27, 2004.

Ironically that game was played on the eve of an important tournament for Germany – the EURO 2004. Hopefully, on the eve of another important tournament for the Germans, Thursday’s game will not end in a similar manner for Malta.

Germany vs Malta will be controlled by officials from Luxembourg, namely referee Alain Hamer, assistant referees Francois Mangen and Christian Holtgen and fourth official Markus Wingenbach.

The game will be screened live on Melita Sports on Thursday. Live transmission with commentary from Aachen commences at 17:45.