After nine months and a half, the national team will be in action once again on Thursday as Malta takes on the Faroe Islands in a match from Group D1 of the UEFA Nations League at the Tórsvøllur in Torshavn, kick-off at 20:45.
Since the 1-2 defeat to Norway, many things have changed. Devis Mangia was appointed as the new national team head-coach. He was due to make his debut in March as Malta had scheduled friendly matches against Gibraltar and Azerbaijan. Other friendly matches were planned in June, including one against UEFA Nations League winners Portugal.
Photo: Copyright domenic aquilina
However the COVID-19 pandemic led to the cancellation of these matches, apart from the interruption and eventual termination of domestic competitions, and therefore the former Italy Under-21 national coach is set to make his debut as Malta coach on Thursday.
Since March, local players have not played any competitive matches, apart from the players of Floriana, Valletta and Hibernians who played only one game in the UEFA Champions League or Europa League. The only two foreign-based players in the squad – Luke Gambin and Teddy Teuma – made two appearances for Colchester United and Union Saint-Gilloise respectively.
Teuma is one of the new faces in the squad after acquiring a Maltese passport. Another is Birkirkara’s Enrico Pepe who was awarded Maltese citizenship on sporting merit.
Andreas Vella, Jean Borg, Matthew Guillaumier, Neil Tabone, Shaun Dimech and Paul Mbong – who are all still eligible to play for the Under-21 national team – all feature in the squad named by Devis Mangia. Ryan Camenzuli, Steve Pisani and Jurgen Degabriele are back after a long absence although Degabriele was only ruled out due to injuries.
Addressing the media on Wednesday, Devis Mangia said that his main objective for this first game was a good performance by the team.
“At the moment, the most important thing is the performance – how we approach the game and how we play. At the moment, this is my main target.”
“This is a four-year project and we would not find solutions in a week. However I do have clear objectives and the players know what I want from them.”
“The players are showing enthusiasm, not only the younger ones. This is very important at this stage. Enthusiasm and attitude are an important resource for us which could also make up for the difference in physical condition.”
With regards to the difference in physical condition, captain Andrei Agius added “The physical aspect, unfortunately, is something which one has to consider. However we cannot try to find excuses. We have to do our best to be in our best condition. We need to be positive and do our utmost to achieve the result. Nothing more, nothing less.”
The new Malta head-coach would not reveal his tactical plans for Thursday’s game but when asked with regards to the possible inclusion of Teddy Teuma, he said “Teuma joined us on Monday and had one training session with us so far and therefore may need some time to understand exactly what I want from him. We will see if we will play a part of tomorrow’s game.”
Mangia turned his focus on the importance of the players playing as a team.
“I don’t like to speak about a star player. We speak about a team. This is our idea, our philosophy. The team has talented players but these are different than individuals. Individuals want to show that they are good while talented players play for the team … this is what I want in the team.”
Finally when asked regarding his objective in Group D1 of the UEFA Nations League, Mangia would not reveal any particular target.
“We need to take game by game and then if we show on the pitch that we are strong enough, we will see what we would have achieved by the end.”
Meanwhile the Faroe Islands have also appointed a new coach earlier this year, Håkan Ericson. Like Malta, they have not played any friendly matches since November 2019 but unlike Malta, most of their players have been playing regularly in the domestic league since May when the Faroe Islands Premier League kicked-off. Clubs in the Faroe Islands have already played sixteen to eighteen games.
The squad includes just five players based in other Nordic countries with the bulk therefore coming from the domestic competition. Therefore with regards to match-fitness, the Faroe Islands definitely have an edge over Malta.
This will be the ninth clash between Malta and the Faroe Islands. On home soil, the Faroe Islands have always emerged as winners – 2-1 in a friendly match in June 1997, 3-2 in a friendly match in August 2004, 3-1 in the UEFA Nations League in September 2018 and 1-0 last October in the EURO 2020 qualifiers.
The positive results obtained by Malta against the Faroe Islands were a win in a friendly match in November 2013, a 1-1 draw in the UEFA Nations League in 2018 and the 2-1 win in the EURO 2020 qualifiers in March 2019 – all matches played at Ta’ Qali.
Henry Bonello (Valletta); Jake Galea (Sliema Wanderers); Andreas Vella (Santa Lucia);
Andrei Agius (Hibernians); Jean Borg (Valletta); Steve Borg (Gżira United); Zach Muscat (No Club); Enrico Pepe (Birkirkara);
Ryan Camenzuli (Floriana); Triston Caruana (Valletta); Juan Corbalan (Ħamrun Spartans); Jake Grech (Hibernians); Matthew Guillaumier (Birkirkara); Joseph Mbong (Ħamrun Spartans); Rowen Muscat (Valletta); Steven Pisani (Balzan); Neil Tabone (Żejtun Corinthians); Teddy Teuma (Royale Union Saint-Gilloise – Belgium);
Jurgen Degabriele (Hibernians); Shaun Dimech (Valletta); Luke Gambin (Colchester United – England); Paul Mbong (Birkirkara); Kyrian Nwoko (Valletta).
Gunnar Nielsen (FH – ICE), Teitur Matras Gestsson (HB), Tórður Thomsen (NSÍ), Jóannes Kalsø Danielsen (KÍ), Hera Hjalt Mohr (HB), Viljormur Davidsen (Vejle BK – DEN), Daniel Johansen (HB), Heini Vatnsdal (KÍ), Heðin Hansen (HB), Sonni Ragnar Nattestad (B36), Odmar Færø (KÍ), Jóannes Bjartalíð (KÍ), Meinhard Egilsson Olsen (GAIS – SWE), Sølvi Vatnhamar (Víkingur), Jákupi B. Andreasen (KÍ), Patriki Johannesen (KÍ), Adrian Justinussen (HB), Brandur Hendriksson Olsen (Helsingborgs – SWE), Hallur Hansson (AC Horsens – DEN), Dan í Soylu (HB), Gunnar Vatnhamar (Víkingur), Andreas Lava Olsen (Víkingur), Klæmint Andrasson Olsen (NSÍ)