Malta hosts Sweden in another UEFA Under-21 Championship Group 7 qualifier the National Stadium on Wedensday, kick-off at 14:30.
The team led by Ray Farrugia played six matches so far in Group 7. After an encouraging start despite a 2-0 defeat in Poland, Malta suffered five heavy defeats to Turkey away from home, Greece away and at home, Poland at home and Sweden away from home. Against Sweden, Malta targets a good performance while trying to limit the damage.
For this game, Farrugia could not count on Bjorn Kristensen and captain Zach Muscat who is suspended. The two players have also been promoted to the senior squad due to the MFA Technical Centre’s decision not to consider Valletta players for selection. For this same reason, Valletta duo Yenz Cini and Luke Montebello were not included in the Under-21 squad.
There are four new faces in the squad – Rabat Ajax duo Shaun Gauci and Ryan Micallef, Cain Attard of Pietà Hotspurs and Keith Tanti of St. George’s. The Pietà defender is set to make his debut on Wednesday.
In fact, the starting line-up will be Jurgen Borg, Cain Attard, Christian Grech, Louis Cutajar, Ryan Camenzuli, Sacha Borg, Daniel Zerafa, Steve Pisani, Ryan Scicluna, Jurgen Pisani, Jean Paul Farrugia.
Speaking at a press conference at the Seabank Hotel on Tuesday, Farrugia said that although Malta is yet to collect any points in this group, he still believes the players in the current squad have big potential but they failed to understand this.
Farrugia is aware of the strength of the Swedish side and urged his players to avoid the mistakes committed in Malmo. He blamed silly mistakes and lack of concentration for the fact that Malta lost all matches, most of them with heavy scores. He said that in the first game against Poland – the best team in the group, Malta played an excellent game, creating goal-scoring chances but were unlucky to suffer two late goals.
Sweden are second from bottom in the group after collecting seven points from five matches. After beating Poland 3-1 in Malmo, Sweden held Turkey in a 2-2 draw in Istanbul, lost 2-0 to Poland in Krakow and 5-1 to Greece in Katerini before beatng Malta 5-0 in Malmo.
At Ta’ Qali, they chase a win which would possibly put them in second or third place, depending on the clash between second-placed Turkey and third-placed Greece. Poland lead the way with 15 points, followed by Turkey on 10 and Greece on 9.