Malta takes on Armenia in search of a positive start

Malta will be aiming for a positive start as it hosts Armenia in the first match from Group B of the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying round at the national Stadium on Friday, kick-off at 20:00.

After ending the EURO 2012 qualifiers with just one point from ten matches, the Malta Football Association sacked coaches John Buttigieg and Carmel Busuttil, appointing Pietro Ghedin as the new national coach. In view of these World Cup qualifiers, Malta played three friendly matches.

Under the guidance of MFA Technical Director Robert Gatt, the national team defeated Liechtenstein 2-1 in a friendly match at Ta’ Qali in February. Ghedin started his new spell as Malta coach with a 2-0 win over Luxembourg away from home in June before a 3-2 win against San Marino in Serravalle.

Photos: Copyright © Joe Borg / MFA

National coach Pietro Ghedin said that although they were friendly matches, the results do fill the team with courage and the feeling that they can do it. He said the team is working hard and is in a good condition and are now confident that they can do well.

As regards the players in the squad, he said that although there seem to be just three midfielders in squad, there are at least ten players who could play in midfield, confirming that he will be using the 4-2-3-1 formation. He mentioned the return of Edward Herrera in squad and pointed out that Ryan Fenech needs to develop more to be the talented player he promises to be.

Ghedin said that over the past four months, the players worked hard but they need to work harder. He mentioned the fact that in the last game against San Marino, although the team scored three goals, they could have even scored up to seven but ended suffering two goals. Believing in themselves was of utmost importance for the players apart from following the coach’s instructions.

The Malta coach said the Armenia game was a very important test. He said he watched them in action against Belarus and they proved to be a fast team. Armenia played the waiting game, being very fast in counter breaks andd therefore one had to be very careful not to leave any space. In Friday’s game, Malta has to make out the most of its chances. He is confident the players are fully focussed on this game, and not on Tuesday’s big match against Italy, as it had the top priority now.

Malta and Armenia met three times, all ending in 1-0 wins for Armenia – a friendly match in Yerevan in July 1994, a friendly match at Ta’ Qali in September 2007 and a match from the Malta International Tournament in February 2008.

Photos: Copyright © Joe Borg / MFA

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Pietro Ghedin admitted he is looking forward to these games after playing two friendly matches as he is keen to see how the team will fare in competitive matches. Aiming for a positive result was of utmost importance for for this to happen, the team had to make the least mistakes possible as otherwise the team would be punished by opponents. He said that this was the difference between a good team and a small team.

The national coach said the interpretation of one’s role on the field of play was very important for a good player. He also said that experience was everything in football – not only in terms of number of games played but also a long presence in the squad.

Pietro Ghedin said that his role was to bring out the best out of the players. “Nothing is obtained by coincidence. I have to create the right conditions, create a positive environment. We have to believe in ourselves and be aware of our qualities. However we cannot stay as the underdogs everytime. We have to fight. Trying to limit the damage is something which I hate. we have to think positive,” concluded Ghedin.

Michael Mifsud said that it was a great honour to play for his country and is glad to have scored so many goals. He said it was only thanks to his team mates that he scored these goals. However the most important thing was for the team to play good football and obtain positive results.

The Malta captain said that the atmosphere in the squad is very good and the coach contributes in the fact that the players feel well within the squad.

He admitted the game will be a very difficult one after seeing the team in action on DVDs and also considering the fact that they obtained seventeen points in the EURO 2012 qualifying campaign. Although one could not underestimate the opponents, Mifsud said the team is well-prepared and hoping for a good performance and result.

Apart from Clayton Failla, Ghedin has the full squad at his disposal. In fact, Jonathan Caruana is back after missing the last game against San Marino as he was recovering from an injury.

Ghedin is expected to make just one change from the team which defeated San Marino as Jonathan Caruana replaces Ryan Camilleri. Andrew Hogg should start in goal with Steve Borg and Alex Muscat on the flanks, Andrei Agus and Jonathan Caruana as central defenders. Roderick Briffa and Gareth Sciberras will act as holding midfielders with the other three midfielders being Daniel Bogdanovic, Andre Schembri and Andrew Cohen. Captain Michael Mifsud will be the only striker.

Transport to the National Stadium from Valletta and vice-versa will be provided by Arriva.

From Valletta Terminus (next to Bus Bay No. 15) to the National Stadium;
Bus leaves @ 17.45hrs
Bus leaves @ 18.30hrs

From the National Stadium (in front of the MFCC Entrance Gates), to Valletta;
Bus leaves @ 22.00hrs
Bus leaves @ 22.15hrs

The windscreen tags on these buses will indicate that they are ‘National Stadium Direct Service’