Malta faces Bulgaria in another World Cup qualifer

malta-in-bulgaria-training130321pzcMalta takes on Bulgaria in another match from Group B of the 2014 FIFA World Cup at the Vasil Levski Stadium in Sofia.

The match will be played behind closed doors following a decision by the FIFA Disciplinary Committee after the Bulgarians were reported for the throwing of fireworks and racist abuse towards a Danish player during the qualifier against Denmark which was played on October 12.

For Malta, this will be the fourth match in Group B following a 0-1 defeat to Armenia at Ta’ Qali, a 2-0 defeat to Italy in Modena and a 3-1 loss to the Czech Republic in Plzen.

Photos: Copyright © Paul Zammit Cutajar

Despite the three defeats, the performance by boys in red was quite encouraging and although national coach Pietro Ghedin remains cautious, the team will aim for another good performance and possibly a first positive result in the group. The fact that the Bulgarians will not have their supporters’ backing is another plus for the Maltese.

Ghedin is not expected to make particular changes from the team which drew 0-0 with Northern Ireland in a friendly match last month. Roderick Briffa returned in squad together with Jonathan Caruana and Daniel Bogdanovic after they missed that friendly match but only Briffa should make it to the starting line-up.

Alex Muscat and Clayton Failla should start on the flanks with Andrei Agius and Luke Dimech as central defenders; Roderick Briffa and Gareth Sciberras as holding midfielders, Edward Herrera, Andre Schembri and Andrew Cohen in midfield with Michael Mifsud as the only striker. Ghedin will then have to choose between Justin Haber and Andrew Hogg for the number one shirt.

The other players in the squad are Ryan Camilleri, Jonathan Caruana, Paul Fenech, Ryan Fenech, Rowen Muscat, Daniel Bogdanovic.

The task will be no easy one considering that Bulgaria are currently second in Group B after obtaining a win and three draws from the four matches played so far. The Bulgarians held Italy in a 2-2 draw and Denmark in a 1-1 draw at home, the Czech Republic 0-0 away from home, defeating Armenia 1-0.

Photos: Copyright © Paul Zammit Cutajar

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Coach Luboslav Penev named three uncapped players in the squad – namely Slavia Sofia defender Radoslav Dimitrov, Litex Lovech’s teenage midfielder Simeon Slavchev and Botev Plovdiv striker Todor Nedelev.

The squad is made up of:
Goalkeepers Nikolay Mihaylov (Twente Enschede), Vladislav Stoyanov (Ludogorets), Plamen Iliev (Levski Sofia)
Defenders Pavel Vidanov (Zaglebie Lubin), Petar Zanev (Volin Lutsk), Yordan Minev (Ludogorets), Radoslav Dimitrov (Slavia Sofia), Nikolay Bodurov (Litex Lovech), Iliya Milanov (Litex Lovech), Ivan Ivanov (Partizan Belgrade), Veselin Minev (Botev Plovdiv)
Midfielders Georgi Sarmov (Kasimpasa), Stanislav Manolev (Fulham), Vladimir Gadzhev (Levski Sofia), Svetoslav Dyakov (Ludogorets), Georgi Iliev (Cherno More Varna), Georgi Milanov (Litex Lovech), Hristo Zlatinski (Lokomotiv Plovdiv), Simeon Slavchev (Litex Lovech), Emil Gargorov (Ludogorets)
Forwards Ivelin Popov (Kuban Krasnodar), Valeri Bojinov (Vicenza), Iliyan Mitsanski (Ingolstadt), Alexander Tonev (Lech Poznan), Todor Nedelev (Botev Plovdiv)

The two countries met seven times in friendly matches, European Championship and World Championship qualifiers. Away from home, Malta suffered three defeats to Bulgaria, claiming only two draws in two games played at Ta’ Qali.

The match will be controlled by referee Eitan Shmuelevitz, assisted by assistant referees Danny Krasikow and David Biton and fourth official Menashe Masiah from Israel.