National squad prepares for June commitments

The 2016/17 domestic season may have come to an end last Saturday with the FA Trophy final between Floriana and Sliema Wanderers but for the players named in the provisional Malta squad for next month’s international matches, the hard work continues.

With Malta playing a friendly game against Ukraine in the Austrian city of Graz on June 6 followed by the 2018 World Cup Group F qualifier against Slovenia in Ljubljana four days later, national coach Pietro Ghedin and the members of his technical staff, namely assistant Ray Farrugia, performance head coach Luca Pagani and goalkeepers’ coach Charles Sciberras are putting the players through their paces at the MFA Training Grounds in Ta’ Qali.

Ghedin called a provisional squad of 31 players earlier this month and the first training session was held last Thursday.

Most of the players in Ghedin’s initial selection, which includes several names who were part of the first Malta B squad last March, the likes of Xewkija Tigers goalkeeper Steve Sultana, Tarxien Rainbows flank defender Sacha Borg, Balzan striker Lydon Micallef, Hibernians midfielder Johann Bezzina, and St Andrews duo Michael Johnson and Dale Camilleri, reported for training last week.

Defender Sam Magri, who turned out for Dover Athletic this season, and Balzan midfielder Ryan Fenech joined up with the Malta squad on Tuesday evening while Zach Muscat, the US Arezzo defender, reported for training on Monday.

Photos: Copyright © Paul Zammit Cutajar/MFA

Missing from the squad are the players of FA Trophy winners Floriana and Sliema Wanderers, who have been given a few days off after contesting the final last weekend, and Andrè Schembri, the Boavista forward, Luton Town winger Luke Gambin and Myles Beerman, the promising Glasgow Rangers wing-back who has been promoted to the senior squad along with fellow Malta U-21 starlet Jurgen Degabriele, the Hibernians forward.

The remaining players on Ghedin’s provisional list are expected to report for international duty in the coming days.

Steve Borg, Clayton Failla, Alex Muscat, Ryan Scicluna and Alfred Effiong are back in contention for a recall to the final Malta squad for the June commitments after missing out on a place in Ghedin’s selection for the 2018 World Cup qualifying defeat against Slovakia in March.

Sliema Wanderers striker Jean Paul Farrugia has been not selected as he is suspended for the Slovenia qualifier while Birkirkara’s Cain Attard is injured.

Goalkeepers: Henry Bonello (Birkirkara); Andrew Hogg (Hibernians); Steve Sultana (Xewkija Tigers).

Defenders: Andrei Agius (Hibernians); Samir Arab (Balzan); Myles Beerman (Glasgow Rangers); Steve Borg (Valletta); Sacha Borg (Tarxien Rainbows); Jacob Borg (Gżira United); Ryan Camilleri (Valletta); Clayton Failla (Hibernians); Clifford Gatt Baldacchino (Gżira United); Michael Johnson (St Andrews); Sam Magri (Dover Athletic); Zach Muscat (US Arezzo); Alex Muscat (Sliema Wanderers); Joseph Zerafa (Birkirkara).

Midfielders: Dale Camilleri (St Andrews); Johann Bezzina (Hibernians); Ryan Fenech (Balzan); Paul Fenech (Balzan); Bjorn Kristensen (Hibernians); Steve Pisani (Floriana); Ryan Scicluna (Birkirkara).

Forwards: Jurgen Degabriele (Hibernians); Alfred Effiong (Balzan); Luke Gambin (Luton Town); Lydon Micallef (Balzan); Michael Mifsud (Valletta); Luke Montebello (Valletta); Andrè Schembri (Boavista).