Difficult test for Malta as boys in red host Denmark

pietro-ghedinMalta will be aiming for a good performance and possibly a good result as Pietro Ghedin’s side hosts Denmark in another match from Group B of the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers at the National Stadium on Friday, kick-off at 20:00.

The national team collected its first three points in the group after defeating Armenia 1-0 in Yerevan in June. However a 3-0 defeat to Azerbaijan in a friendly match must have been a shock for the team considering that Malta was coming from a series of eight positive results in friendly matches.

Addressing a press conference on Thursday, Ghedin said that all matches are important, no matter whether friendly matches or qualifiers. He said that after the win over Armenia, the players were more relaxed. The Malta coach said the players cannot afford being relaxed as they should always seek to improve.

Photos: Copyright © domenic aquilina

Ghedin said the defeat in Baku was a good lesson for the players as our opponents took advantage from three ‘gifts’ which resulted in goals.

Despite having played just three league games so far, Ghedin is not worried about the physical condition of his players, stressing that they should still be able to play good football and above all leave the pitch confident that they gave their very best.

With Alex Muscat and Luke Dimech both ruled out through suspension after picking a second yellow card in Armenia, the rear-guard is a major concern for the Malta coach. He said that while Ryan Camilleri and Andrei Agius will be starting as central defenders, Clayton Failla and either Jacob Borg or Justin Grioli will start on the flanks. Borg made his debut in the friendly match against Azerbaijan last month while Grioli is the only uncapped player in the squad.

Ghedin stressed that despite the “emergency in defence”, he still could just call a player there and then. He said he believes in establishing a working group it would not be fair to bring another player and then send him back when the others return. He said players deserve respect whether they are part of the squad or not. As regards Michael Mifsud, despite still being without a club, the Malta coach said he deserves respect as although he may not be at his top, he still has a lot to offer and it was very difficult to find a player to replace him.

Justin Haber is expected to start in goal once again with Ryan Camilleri and Andrei Agius as central defenders, Jacob Borg and Clayton Failla on the flanks; Roderick Briffa and Gareth Sciberras as holding midfielders, Edward Herrera, Andre Schembri and Andrew Cohen in midfield with Michael Mifsud as the only striker.

The other players at the disposal of Pietro Ghedin are: Henry Bonello, Andrew Hogg, Jonathan Caruana, Clifford Gatt Baldacchino, Justin grioli, Paul Fenech, Ryan Fenech, John Mintoff, Rowen Muscat, Terence Vella.

The Danish campaign was quite disappointing so far after collecting six points from six matches, including a humiliating 0-4 defeat to Armenia in Copenhagen, just four days after Armenia lost to Malta in Yerevan. They collected the points in a draw with the Czech Republic at home, draws with Bulgaria at home and away and a 3-0 win over the Czech Republic away from home.

They share the fourth place with Armenia on six points, eight behind leaders Italy, four behind Bulgaria and three behind the Czech Republic.

Addressing the media on Thursday, Denmark coach Morten Olsen insisted there was only one good result for Denmark – a win.

“We need four wins from the remaining four matches to aim for a place in the play-offs. After the defeat to Armenia, we have four finals. We have to win all of them and wait. So far, we played some good football but failed to take the chances in other games. Now the situation is very difficult,” said Morten Olsen.

Olsen said he was prepared for a difficult game.

“I have seen the 1-0 win in Yerevan. Small countries defend better now. The Malta team is more compact and show greater determination. Compared to Denmark’s 3-0 win in Malta in 2009, most of the Maltese players are still there. Therefore they have been playing together for a long time now.”

Morten Olsen is expected to make at least five changes from the team which lost to Armenia in June. He is expected to start with goalkeeper Stephan Andersen (Real Betis) in goal, Lars Jacobsen (Copenhagen), Simon Kjaer (Lille), Daniel Agger (Liverpool) and Nicolai Boilesen (Ajax) in defence, Leon Andreasen (Hannover), William Kvist Jorgensen (Stuttgart) and Christian Eriksen (Tottenham) in midfield with Martin Braithwaite (Toulouse), Nicklas Pedersen (Gent) and Viktor Fischer (Ajax) or Michael Krohn-Dehli (Celta Vigo) in attack.

The other players at his disposal are Jesper Hansen (Evian Thonon Gaillard), Kasper Schmeichel (Leicester), Peter Ankersen (Esbjerg), Andreas Bjelland (Twente), Jores Okore (Aston Villa), Thomas Delaney (Copenhagen), Rasmus Falk (OB), Casper Sloth (AGF), Niki Zimling (Mainz), Nicolai Jorgensen (Copenhagen), Emil Larsen (OB), Simon Makienok (Brondby) and Nicki Billi Nielsen (Rosenborg).

Malta met Denmark eight times with Malta winning the clash with Denmark XI 3-0 in a friendly match 1958 and Denmark winning the other seven matches – six of them being World Cup or European Championship qualifiers. At Ta’ Qali, Malta lost 0-2 in the Rothmans Tournament in 1989, 0-5 in a World Cup qualifier in 2001 and 0-3 in another World Cup qualifier in 2009.

The match will be controlled by Greek officials: referee Anastasios Sidiropoulos assisted by Christos Baltas and Michail Karsiotis and fourth official Ilias Spathas.

The Gates and Ticket Booths will be open at 18:30. The West C, Millennium D and F and South Stands will be used for the local fans, while Sector West A (Upper) will be reserved for the visiting fans. Millennium E will be reserved for corporate clients.

Remaining match tickets will be sold at the gates at the following prices:
West Stand C – Adults €25, Children n/a
Millennium Stand – Adults €15, Children €5
South Stand – Adults €10, Children €3