EURO 2016: Malta takes on Norway in difficult test

Malta will be hoping for a good performance and result in the first home match from Group H of the EURO 2016 qualifiers as Pietro Ghedin’s side hosts Norway at the National Stadium on Friday, kick-off at 20:45.

Traditionally Malta finds it difficult when facing Nordic sides but the team is confident of performing well after quite a positive performance against Croatia last month in Zagreb despite the fact that Malta had to play for an hour in ten men after having Steve Borg sent off.

Addressing a press conference on Thursday, Malta coach Pietro Ghedin said that in the last two matches, the team played very well, also thanks to the fact that the team changed the tactical formation from 4-2-3-1 to 3-5-2. He admitted the Norway game will be another difficult game.

“We are in a group where all teams are strong. We have to play well as we did against Croatia. However I am confident our players will do better than they did in the last game.”

“Norway are very strong and fast as they showed against Italy. One cannot rest for a few minutes. We need to stay in the right condition and stay fully focussed all the time,” said Ghedin.

Goalkeeper Andrew Hogg of Greek Super League side Kalloni Lekanopedio agreed with Ghedin, saying that he believed that the team showed good tactical discipline in the friendly match against Slovakia and the EURO 2016 qualfier against Croatia. He said the team did well and made their opponents feel uncomfortable. Bjorn Kristensen added that the players’ main objective is to do their best and give opponents a hard time.

For this game, the Malta coach will be unable to count on the injured Jonathan Caruana and Gareth Sciberras and the suspended Steve Borg. Although he did not reveal the starting formation, Ghedin revealed that probably ten out of the eleven players who were in the starting line-up in Zagreb, will start the Norway game.

Hogg will therefore start in goal with Zach Muscat, Andrei Agius and Ryan Camilleri as the three defenders, Roderick Briffa or Steve Bezzina on the right and Clayton Failla on the left, Ryan Fenech, Rowen Muscat and Paul Fenech in midfield with Andre Schembri supporting Michael Mifsud in attack.

The other players in the squad are: Justin Haber, Nicky Vella, Justin Grioli, Clifford Gatt Baldacchino, Andrew Cohen, John Mintoff, Steve Pisani, Ryan Scicluna, Jean Paul Farrugia and Terence Vella.

Meanwhile Martin Ødegaard will be just 15 years and 297 days should he play for Norway, making him the youngest player in EURO qualifying history. It would be just one of a number of milestones for a player who has come to the attention through his performances for his club side.

Norway coach Per-Mathias Høgmo handed Ødegaard his international debut in August’s friendly draw against the United Arab Emirates – aged 15 years and 253 days, making him his country’s youngest ever player. He could now beat a record currently held by Sigurdur Jónsson, who played for Iceland at 16 years and 251 days in a qualifier in 1983, coincidentally against Malta.

Høgmo has not included the youngster just for the experience. “I’m not afraid to use him, even from the start,” said the coach. “All players in the squad are competing for a starting place. Martin is a very competent player when it comes to opening up defences, and that is a quality this side needs.”

This will be the ninth clash between Malta and Norway with Norway winning six of the matches. Malta have twice held Norway to 1-1 draws – at the old Empire Stadium in Gzira in November 1961 and at National Stadium Ta’ Qali in February 1990. However Norway have come out on top in all four of their previous competitive matches against Malta.

The match will be controlled by French officials, namely referee Antony Gautier, assistant referees Michael Annonier and Philippe Jeanne, additional assistant referees Benoit Bastien and Sebastien Desiage and fourth official Eric Danizan.

Gates at the National Stadium will open at 18:30 for both matches and gates will remain open until the start of the second half.

The ticket-office at West B will serve as a ticket collection point for VIP (West B). For the match Malta vs Norway, West A ticket-booth will be selling tickets for West A and North Stands while West C ticket-booth will be selling tickets for West C and South Stands; the Millennium D ticket-booth will be selling tickets for the Millennium D and South Stands while the Millennium F ticket-booth will be used as a Ticket Information Point.

Ticket-prices are as follows: West A Stand – Adults €20 , Children €10
West C Stand – Adults €20, Children €10
Millennium Stand – Adults €12, Children €5
South Stand – Adults €8, Children €2
North Stand – Adults €10, Children €2

As is the normal practice on the occasion of international matches West A, B and C Stands will be on allocated seating, i.e ticket holders are to sit on the seat as indicated on their ticket. However, in all other sectors of the stadium, i.e. in the Millennium, North and South Stands a Free Seating Policy is adopted.