The Malta national team will be playing its fourth match from Group F of the EURO 2012 qualifiers as it entertains Croatia at the Stadion Maksimir in Zagreb on Wednesday, kick-off at 17:30.
Malta is yet without any points but was only a few seconds away from collecting a point in Tbilisi last month when a goal on the 93rd minute gave Georgia a narrow 1-0 win over John Buttigieg’s side. Wednesday’s test will definitely be a much more difficult one, considering that Croatia are one of the favourites to qualify from the group.
Daniel Bogdanovic is back for Malta after serving a one-match ban but this time, two players are ruled out through suspension – Melfi defender Andrei Agius and Hibs midfielder Andrew Cohen. John Hutchinson earned a recall after missing the last matches.
Buttigieg took nineteen players to Zagreb as Marsaxlokk defender Carlo Mamo was recovering from an injury. The Malta coach hopes Mamo will recover in time in order to make it to the starting line-up. However his biggest concern is probably the absence of Andrei Agius since there are no other central defenders in squad. Gareth Sciberras, Massimo Grima and Joseph Zerafa are the possible options. Sciberras was employed as holding midfielder in the three previous matches but could be the player to replace Agius. John Hutchinson should replace him in midfield.
Goalkeeper Justin Haber should be preferred to Andrew Hogg with Roderick Briffa and Carlo Mamo or Shaun Bajada as the two flank defenders. Hutchinson and Jamie Pace will play in front of the defence with Kevin Sammut, Andre Schembri and Daniel Bogdanovic as the other three midfielders. Michael Mifsud should start as the only striker.
The other players at the disposal of the Malta coach are Edward Herrera, Massimo Grima, Joseph Zerafa, Paul Fenech, Ryan Fenech and Ivan Woods.
Croatia won the away matches against Latvia and Israel but were held in a goalless draw by Greece in Zagreb. The Greeks lead the way with eight points from four matches and therefore with a win over Malta, Croatia would take the top spot in Group F.
Malta and Croatia met four times with the latter claiming maximum points on three occasions with the other match – the 2006 FIFA World Cup qualifier played at Ta’ Qali on September 9, 2005 – ending in a 1-1 draw. In the two matches played in Zagreb, Croatia won 4-1 in a European Championship qualifier in October 1998 and 3-0 in a World Cup qualifier in March 2005.