The final preparations by the national futsal team ahead of the UEFA Futsal EURO 2012 Preliminary Round mini-tournament are well underway with Malta facing Norway in two friendly matches on Thursday and Friday. These two games will provide the final test for Vic Hermans’ side as Malta will be facing Bulgaria, France and Lithuania in the mini-tournament which will be played at the Cottonera Sports Complex between January 21 and 24.
While addressing a press conference on Wednesday at the Le Meridien Hotel, St. Julian’s, Malta coach Vic Hermans said that a year ago, his main objective was that of putting Malta on the futsal map. The team participated in the first edition of the Mediterranean Futsal Cup in Libya and a quadrangular tournament in Bern, Switzerland.
On both occasions, Hermans was unable to field his best formation due to the absence of a number of players who were unable to travel with the squad – especially for the tournament in Libya. This tournament was a difficult one as the team had to play six games in eight days. During this tournament, Malta obtained its first ever win, defeating Palestine in the final match. However the Malta coach admitted that he would have expected a win earlier in the tournament.
The first game of the tournament in Bern, just as it was the case with the friendlies against Finland which were played in October, continued to stress the big gap there is between the local team and some of the foreign countries. However in the other game against Switzerland, Malta did quite well, losing by the odd goal in seven. Vic Hermans said he was satisfied with the performance of his players during the latter game.
About this tournament, the Malta coach said one had to be realistic, although he did not rule out the possibility of a positive result.
Malta plays the first game against what is probably the strongest side in Group D – France on Friday 21st. On Saturday 22nd, Malta takes on Bulgaria while the third and final match is against Lithuania on Monday 24. All Malta games will kick-off at 20:00.
The official match schedule is as follows:
Fri 21 16:30 Lithuania vs Bulgaria
Fri 21 20:00 Malta vs France
Sat 22 18:00 France vs Lithuania
Sat 22 20:00 Malta vs Bulgaria
Sun 24 18:00 Bulgaria vs France
Sun 24 20:00 Lithuania vs Malta.
All matches will be played at the Cottonera Complex and entrance tickets cost €2.
For the friendly matches against Norway which will be played on Thursday 13 and Friday 14 at the Cottonera Complex, kick-off at 20:00, Hermans named the following players:
goalkeepers Matthew Mifsud, Bjorn Vassallo;
players Glenn Bonello, Melvin Borg, Chris Brincat, Paul Bugeja, John Cutajar, Nicola Del Re, George Frendo, Dean Gera, Robert Magro, Jonathan Magri Overend, Carlo Scicluna, Xavier Saliba and Timmy Zammit.
Tournament director Mark Borg thanked the Malta Football Association for trusting him as tournament director, just a few months after he was the tournament director for the UEFA Futsal Cup mini-tournament hosted by local champions ZC Excess. He said that for him, who is coming from a club, this appointment was a clear sign of the positive synergy between futsal clubs and the Malta Football Association.
Borg revealed that a number of events will be taking place during the tournament. These include a futsal event for children which will be held on Sunday 23.
Meanwhile new MFA Technical Director Robert Gatt promised the full support to futsal by the MFA Technical Centre.
He concluded by hoping that this tournament will help attracting more children to futsal.
Photos: Copyright © domenic aquilina/MFA