Malta coach Ray Farrugia has included six Under-21 players in his final squad for the training camp in Austria and next week’s friendly matches against Armenia and Georgia.
Farrugia, who succeeded Belgian Tom Saintfiet at the helm of the national team earlier this month, has opted for a mix of youth and experience as the U-21 prospects are flanked by experienced players like captain Michael Mifsud, who has made over 125 appearances for the national team, Andrew Cohen, winner of the 2017-18 MFA Footballer of the Year Award, and Roderick Briffa.
The Maltese contingent departs for Austria on Saturday afternoon ahead of their first friendly match against Armenia in Wattens on Tuesday and Georgia in Schwaz on Friday. Both games kick off at 19.00.
Malta’s preparations have been hit hard by injuries as Apollon Limassol forward Andrè Schembri, Arezzo defender Zach Muscat, Hibernians midfield duo Bjorn Kristensen and Johann Bezzina, FC Chiasso forward Jean Paul Farrugia and Birkirkara’s Cain Attard have been ruled out of the upcoming training camp.
Having announced a provisional squad of 26 players earlier this month, Farrugia and his assistant Branko Nisevic promoted another two players from the Malta Under-21 squad, striker Jurgen Degabriele and midfielder Dunstan Vella.
They join Birkirkara midfielder Jake Grech, Hibs wing-back Joseph Mbong, Valletta striker Kyrian Nwoko and Myles Beerman, the young flank player who recently renewed his contract with Scottish club Rangers.
There are two Gozitan players in the 23-strong senior squad, goalkeeper Steve Sultana, who plays for Ħamrun Spartans, and Victoria Hotspurs defender Ferdinando Apap.
The training camp in Austria and the warm-up games against Armenia and Georgia are a key part of Malta’s build-up for the inaugural UEFA Nations League. Malta has been drawn in Group D3 along with Azerbaijan, the Faroe Islands and Kosovo.
Training for the national squad kicked off on May 15 with two sessions held on selected days based on a detailed programme prepared by Farrugia and his coaching team, Nisevic, technical assistant Ronald Vella, goalkeepers’ coach Charles Sciberras and physical trainer Luca Pagani.
Photo: Copyright © Paul Zammit Cutajar
Goalkeepers: Henry Bonello (Valletta); Andrew Hogg (Hibernians); Steve Sultana (Ħamrun Spartans).
Defenders: Andrei Agius (Hibernians); Ferdinando Apap (Victoria Hotspurs); Steve Borg (Valletta); Ryan Camilleri (Valletta); Michael Johnson (Balzan); Jurgen Pisani (Floriana); Joseph Zerafa (Valletta).
Midfielders: Myles Beerman (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland); Roderick Briffa (Gżira United); Paul Fenech (Balzan); Luke Gambin (Luton Town, England); Jake Grech (Birkirkara); Joseph Mbong (Hibernians); Stephen Pisani (Floriana); Dunstan Vella (Hibernians).
Forwards: Andrew Cohen (Gżira United); Jurgen Degabriele (Hibernians); Alfred Effiong (Balzan); Michael Mifsud (Valletta); Kyrian Nwoko (Valletta).