As part of the preparations for the European Qualifier leading for the FIFA World Cup against Slovenia in programme on Saturday, Malta takes on Ukraine in a friendly match at the Merkur-Arena in Graz, Austria on Tuesday.
Pietro Ghedin’s side is coming from six successive defeats – five defeats in the first five matches from Group F of the European Qualifiers against Scotland, England, Lithuania, Slovenia and Slovakia and a friendly match against Iceland. Malta scored two goals and conceded fifteen.
In the last outing, Malta lost 1-3 to Slovakia with Jean Paul Farrugia scoring the only goal for Malta. Farrugia is ruled out of the game against Slovenia after being sent off and therefore did not make the trip which will took the national team to Bad-Tatzmannsdorf in Austria before travelling to Ljubljana.
Along with Farrugia, also missing for Malta are Cain Attard, Paul Fenech and Gareth Sciberras. Ghedin is therefore forced at least four changes from the game against Slovakia. However Steve Borg, Clayton Failla, Alex Muscat and Alfred Effiong are back in squad.
The Malta coach named three uncapped players in the 20-man squad, namely Rangers right back Myles Beerman and midfield duo Dale Camilleri and Johann Bezzina of St. Andrews and Hibernians respectively.
Andrew Hogg is expected to start in goal with Sam Magri, Andrei Agius and Zach Muscat as the three central defenders with Steve Borg and Ryan Camilleri being the other two options. Alex Muscat and Joseph Zerafa are favourites to start on the flanks ahead of Beerman and Clayton Failla.
Steve Pisani could join Bjorn Kristensen and Luke Gambin in midfield with Andre Schembri supporting Michael Mifsud in attack.
The other players in the squad are Henry Bonello, Ryan Fenech and Alfred Effiong.
This will be the first time Malta will be facing Ukraine. Ukraine are currently ranked 37th in the FIFA World Ranking. They are currently third in Group I in the European Qualifiers after collecting eight points from five matches, two behind Iceland and five behind Croatia.
For this game and the European Qualifier against Finland, Ukraine coach Andriy Shevchenko named the following players:
goalkeepers: Andriy Pyatov, Mykyta Shevchenko (both – Shakhtar, Donetsk), Andriy Lunin (Dnipro, Dnipro)
defenders: Oleksandr Kucher, Yaroslav Rakitskiy, Bohdan Butko, Ivan Ordets Serhiy Kryvtsov (all – Shakhtar), Mykola Morozyuk (Dynamo, Kyiv), Eduard Sobol (Zorya, Luhansk), Mykola Matviyenko (Karpaty, Lviv)
midfielders: Taras Stepanenko, Maxym Malyshev, Viktor Kovalenko (all – Shakhtar), Andriy Yarmolenko, Serhiy Sydorchuk, Denys Garmash, Volodymyr Shepelyev (all – Dynamo), Yevhen Konoplyanka (Schalke, Germany), Yevhen Shakhov (PAOK, Greece), Ruslan Malinovskyi (Genk, Belgium).
forwards: Yevhen Seleznyov (Karabukspor, Turkey), Artem Byesyedin (Dynamo).
The Merkur-Arena in Graz had already hosted Malta in another friendly match, against Austria in May 2008. Malta had lost 1-5 with Michael Mifsud scoring the only goal for Malta.
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