National coach John Buttigieg hopes the national team will continue to build up on recent positive performance as Malta takes on Croatia in next Wednesday’s EURO 2012 Group F qualifier at the Maksimir Stadium in Zagreb.
Addressing the media ahead of this game, Buttigieg said: “This is the third away game for us. Definitely a very difficult game for Malta considering that Croatia are one of the favourites in the group. We must look positively at recent outings. Our team’s performances were good although results, which after all matter most, were not positive.”
Buttigieg said he is sure the players will give their hundred per cent and hopefully, Malta will put on another positive display in Zagreb.
The Malta coach said that all the players in the provisional squad are full fit, except for Trevor Cilia who is still on the road to full recovery. However he complained about the fact that most players will be in action this weekend with their clubs.
“Unfortunately, almost all players will be in action this weekend in the U*BET FA Trophy and therefore I
will have to decide which will players will make it to the final squad in the very last minute before we leave Malta,” said Buttigieg.
The squad leaves Malta on Sunday at 09:30, destination Zagreb, via Munich.
Missing for Malta will be AS Melfi defender Andrei Agius and Hibernians midfielder Andrew Cohen who both received a fourth yellow card in Georgia and were therefore handed a one-match ban.
Maltese-Australian midfielder John Hutchinson is also back in squad after the player preferred not to travel for the previous qualifiers. Buttigieg said Hutchinson deserved to be part of the squad, considering that he was playing regularly in a competition where the level of football is higher than that of the local league.
The Malta coach denied he had any particular target regarding number of points to obtain from the first three matches but admitted that he was expecting better results especially from the home game against Latvia and even from the last game against Georgia when a stoppage-time goal denied Malta the first point in the group.
“Players have to be fully concentrated in order to take full advantage of chances we create,” said Buttigieg, citing the scoring opportunity that fell at the feet of Andre Schembri late in the game against Georgia.
The provisional squad is made up of:
goalkeepers Anthony Curmi (Tarxien), Justin Haber (Ferencvaros), Andrew Hogg (Valletta), Mario Muscat (Hibs);
defenders Shaun Bajada (Birkirkara), Jonathan Caruana (Valletta), Edward Herrera (Hibs), Carlo Mamo (Marsaxlokk), Joseph Zerafa (Birkirkara);
midfielders Roderick Briffa (Valletta), Trevor Cilia (Birkirkara), Paul Fenech (Birkirkara), Ryan Fenech (Hamrun), Massimo Grima (Hamrun), John Hutchinson (Central Coast Mariners), Jamie Pace (Valletta), Kevin Sammut (Valletta), Gareth Sciberras (Marsaxlokk);
forwards Daniel Bogdanovic (Sheffield United), Christian Caruana (Floriana), Michael Mifsud (unattached), Andre Schembri (Ferencvaros), Ivan Woods (Floriana).
The squad returns to Malta on Thursday at 23:30.
Meanwhile the Malta Under-21 side will also travel abroad.
The team led by coach Edwin Camilleri, assisted by Emmanuel Farrugia, will be meeting Cyprus in a friendly match on Wednesday at the GSP Stadium in Nicosia, kick-off at 13:30 CET.
The players selected for this friendly match are:
goalkeepers Daniel Balzan (Hibs), Steve Sultana (Nadur);
defenders Owen Bugeja (Floriana), Willie Camilleri (St. Andrews), Cleaven Cassar (Pietà), Kane Farrugia (Mosta), Andrew Scicluna (Mqabba), Luke Micallef (Melita), Jonathan Xerri (Vittoriosa);
midfielders Triston Caruana (Hibs), Miguel Ciantar (Sliema), Dylan Grima (Balzan), Matthew Gauci (Hibs), Sheldon Grech (Pietà), Luca Martinelli (Melita), Mark Scerri (Sliema);
forwards Mauro Grioli (Mqabba), Lyden Micallef (Mosta), Rowen Muscat (Birkirkara), Terence Vella (Birkirkara).
Photos: Copyright © domenic aquilina/MFA