After losing 1-4 to the Czech Republic on Friday, Malta hopes to end its commitments in Group B of the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers with a good performance against Denmark at the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen on Tuesday, kick-off at 20:15.
Apart from the 6-0 defeat to Bulgaria in Sofia in March and the Czech Republic game, the team’s performance in the remaining matches was quite encouraging, being quite unlucky not to collect any more points apart from the historic 1-0 win over Armenia in Yerevan last June.
Addressing the media in Copenhagen, national coach Pietro Ghedin admitted that Malta did not play well against the Czech Republic and is hoping that his players bounce back with the best possible performance although he is well aware that the Danish will be hoping to end their commitments in the group with a fine win.
Photo: Copyright © Paul Zammit Cutajar
The Malta coach said that this was a group of death and apart from Italy, there was hardly any difference between the other four teams as the table clearly shows.
Alex Muscat said he and the rest of the players are eager to bounce back after this heavy defeat.
“The same thing happened against Bulgaria when we lost 6-0. We bounced back in the following matches, showing that we could offer anyone a good challenge. We need to be fully concentrated throughout the ninety minutes and avoid committing silly mistakes.”
Ghedin is expected to make a number of changes to the team which played on Friday. Jonathan Caruana is ruled out injured but Andre Schembri is back after serving a one-match ban. Andrei Agius, who was surprisingly left out of the starting line-up last week, should take Caruana’s role in defence. Edward Herrera could make it to the line-up after being retained on the bench on Friday as he was not fully fit. He would replace John Mintoff. Schembri, on the other hand, is set to take Andrew Cohen’s place. Rowen Muscat is set to start once again as Gareth Sciberras is ruled out injured.
The line-up should therefore be: Justin Haber – Ryan Camilleri, Andrei Agius, Luke Dimech, Alex Muscat – Roderick Briffa, Rowen Muscat – Edward Herrera, Andre Schembri, Clayton Failla – Michael Mifsud in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
The other players at the disposal of Ghedin are: Henry Bonello, Clifford Gatt Baldacchino, Justin Grioli, Shaun Bajada, Ryan Fenech, John Mintoff, Paul Fenech, Andrew Cohen and Terence Vella.
This will be the third time, Malta plays in Denmark. Malta lost 6-1 in a European Championship qualifier in June 1962. Malta then lost narrowly in a World Cup qualifier in June 2001, losing 2-1, while the last clash goes back to October 2008 when Denmark registered a 3-0 win in another World Cup qualifier.
Denmark are still aiming for a place in the play-offs reserved for the eight runners-up with the best record against the teams finishing first, third, fourth and fifth in their group. Bulgaria, who have the best goal difference, and Denmark are on 13 points, with the Czech Republic and Armenia on 12.
Italy have already qualified but Bulgaria, Denmark, the Czech Republic and Armenia all have a chance of finishing second. Bulgaria host the Czechs and Armenia would need a major upset to win in Italy. However, whoever finishes second in this group is in danger of not making the play-offs as one of the top eight runners-up. In fact, the Czech Republic would definitely not be in contention if they ended second. Points gained against Malta do not count and the runners-up in Group B could end up with the lowest points total of the nine runners-up.
Denmark, who were held in a 2-2 draw by Italy on Friday, will be without the suspended Nicklas Bendtner who scored the two Danish goals. Nicolai Boilesen and Niki Zimling are also suspended.
The match will be broadcast on TVM 2.
Photos: Copyright © Paul Zammit Cutajar