Malta coach Ray Farrugia is banking on fans to give the much-needed support to the national team as Malta hosts Azerbaijan in the second match from the UEFA Nations League D3 at the National Stadium on Monday, kick-off 20.45.
The team lost 3-1 to the Faroe Islands in the first outing at the Torsvollur in Torshavn on Friday and now seek a positive result from the clash with Azerbaijan. In four games against Azerbaijan on home soil, Malta won three friendly matches in 1994, 2000 (Rothmans Tournament) and 2002, earning a point in a draw in a EURO 2016 qualifier in a 2-2 draw in September 2015.
Addressing the media on Sunday, Farrugia stressed that he would only be happy with a win.
“At the moment, motivation is at the maximum. I have no doubts that the players know what they have to do. We had to change our attitude but I can feel and I can see that things are changing. I will only be happy when we win.”
“Maltese have been suffering for a long time in football. We are a nation that normally, we strick together but unfortunately, in football, this is not the case. Sometimes I feel that when a bad result comes, some people would be awaiting this and this really makes me sad.”
“If you want us to go forward in football, we must stick together and be loyal to each other and we can go places.”
“We have to change the mentality. If the people on the street really love Maltese football, then we should stick together.”
“The players are human, they give their all … don’t you think they suffer. We need to help these boys. The team does not belong to Ray Farrugia. It is is yours … ours … it’s our national team. But we have to work hand in hand. I beg everyone … try to help us and we can only get better.”
As regards Friday’s clash with the Faroe Islands, the Malta coach said “Tactically we were perfect. We created the chances but conceded the goals due to silly mistakes.”
“I am disappointed with the result. A loss is a loss. When you lose, you cannot be happy. Now we need to look ahead.”
The Malta coach is aware the clash with Azerbaijan, who were held in a goalless draw by Kosovo on Friday, will be no easy match. He said Azerbaijan were a very strong team and singled out Brazilian-born Richard Almeida as their best player.
“However on the day, anybody can win. We are prepared well. If we play well and avoid mistakes, we can do it.”
When asked regarding the formation and the probable line-up, Farrugia said that he would see which system would suit the team best. In Torshavn, Malta started with a 3-4-2-1 formation but then opted for a 4-4-2 formation.
It would be no surprise were the Malta coach to opt for the same starting line-up on Monday with Andrew Hogg, Joseph Mbong, Steve Borg, Andrei Agius, Zach Muscat, Joseph Zerafa, Rowen Muscat, Paul Fenech, Michael Mifsud, Andre Schembri and Alfred Effiong.
Midfielder Roderick Briffa recovered fully from a slight injury and could be included.
Meanwhile Andre Schembri said that he was disappointed with the Faroe Islands’ result but that was the past and the team was concentrated on the Azerbaijan clash.
“We are strong enough to beat Azerbaijan and we could beat them as we did in past.”
“Tactically, we are working a lot and the more we play together, the better we should get. I believe we can do it,” added Schembri before launching an appeal for fans to get behind the team.
The match will be controlled by officials from Montenegro, namely referee Nikola Dabanović, assistant referees Milovan Djukić and Jovica Tatar, additional assistant referees Milovan Milacic and Miloš Bošković and fourth official Aleksandar Djikanović.