Following the heart-breaking 3-2 defeat to the Faroe Islands on Thursday, Malta plays the second match from Group D1 of the UEFA Nations League, hosting Latvia at the National Stadium on Sunday, kick-off at 20:45.
This game provides the opportunity for Devis Mangia’s side to bounce back after suffering a defeat in Torshavn where the Faroe Islands scored two late goals to turn defeat into victory.
Addressing the media in an online press conference, Devis Mangia said “In the match against the Faroe Islands, we were not happy with the result but with regards to the performance, we played a good game.”
In Torshavn, the team did a few mistakes in the early part of the game.
“It is clear that we have to improve. As regards the mistakes, I am a coach that when I speak about the performance, I speak about the team and not a single player. If we did mistakes, we did mistakes as a team, not like individuals. If there is something to clarify, modify and correct, we will do that.”
“We have to correct something. With regards to attitude and mentality and how we play football, we do not have to change anything, we just need to improve. We need to try to have more control of the game with all the respect for the opponent but we have to play our football.”
Obviously the players were devastated to lose after leading 2-1 with few minutes to go.
“For me, this is a moment to know better the players and what will be their kind of reaction. After the game, we were a little bit down. The atmosphere was not good as it one would expect. Tomorrow, I am curious to see the reaction after this kind of match that we played in Faroe Islands because I want to see continuity from some point of view and something different from other points of view.”
Midfielder Matthew Guillaumier added, “After game we were disappointed. It was a good performance and we deserved to take points from the game. Now we look forward to this game. Another chance to collect points, develop our game and try to put in practice what our coach tells us.”
Latvia are ranked lower than the Faroe Islands but are considered by many as a stronger side.
Malta coach Devis Mangia said “Latvia can be another difficult game, maybe more difficult than the game against the Faroe Islands. It is a team with good physical skills but they have also changed their coach and they changed a bit their philosophy. I saw some of their previous games and I saw some differences with regards the idea of football. It will be difficult but we play our game and then we will see who will be better on the pitch.”
Latvia were held in a goalless draw at home by Andorra in a match in which they missed a penalty and hit the posts apart from having a player sent off.
“I think that Latvia deserved to win the game from what I saw. I do not change my opinion after one game. I think Latvia is a very good team but we have to try play our football and do our best and then see what will happen on the pitch. It is clear that I prefer concentrating on my team with all due respect for the opponents.”
Matthew Guillaumier added “Every game is different but I see no difference between Latvia and Faroe Islands. Each team has its strengths and weaknesses. This is another difficult game for us but our objective is once again to collect points.”
Mangia hopes to have the full squad at his disposal but complained about the fact that UEFA did not increase the allowance of substitutes from three to five for this competition.
“We have training and I need to check the condition of the players. It is possible that we change something. From a physical point of view, we can have such problems, having to play two games in 72 hours, considering that we did not play any games, not even friendly matches, in months, including the league, which is another thing we need to take into consideration. Also the decision to allow only three substitutions in my opinion is not so good in particular for a team like us who had these problems in the past months.”
In the previous edition of the UEFA Nations League, Latvia placed third in a group which included Georgia, Kazakhstan and Andorra while in the EURO 2020 qualifiers, they finished bottom of group G with 3 points after beating Austria in their final match.
Malta and Latvia met five five times – three friendly matches, out of which Malta won twice – and two matches from the EURO 2012 qualifiers. Latvia won 2-0 at Ta’ Qali in September 2010 and in Octonber 2011, Latvia won 2-0 in Riga.
On Sunday, Latvia will be without Vladislavs Gutkovskis who was sent off in the draw to Andorra and Roberts Uldriķis who was denied permission by his club, Sion, to travel to Malta due to the COVID-19 restrictions for people to travel from Malta to Switzerland.
The players at the disposal of coach Dainis Kazakevics are therefore: Pavel Steinborg (Jagiellonia – POL); Robert Ozols (Riga); David Oss (Spartak Jurmala); Mark Osh (Spartak Jurmala); Kaspars Dubra (Olexandria – UKR); Anthony Chernomordy (Riga); Elvis Stuglis (Riga); Roberts Savanieks (RFS); Kriss Karklins (Valmiera); Vladislav Sorokins (RFS); Raivis Jurkovskis (FK Liepaja); Ritvars Rugins (Riga); Arturs Zjuzins (RFS); Eduards Emsis (Noah – ARM); Andrejs Ciganiks (FC Zorya – UKR); Vladislav Fyodorov (Riga); Alvis Jaunzems (Valmiera); Gleb Kushkin (Suduva – LIT); Janis Ikaunieks (RFS); Martins Kigurs (FK Liepaja); Igor Tarasov (KuPS – FIN); Raimonds Krollis (FK Metta); Davis Ikaunieks (Mlada Boleslav – CZE).
Devis Mangia is not expected to make much changes to the team considering the positive performance in Torshavn. However, one player who could make it to the starting line-up is Birkirkara’s Enrico Pepe who would be making his national team debut.
The Malta squad, on the other hand, is made up of:
Henry Bonello (Valletta); Jake Galea (Sliema Wanderers); Andreas Vella (Santa Lucia);
Andrei Agius (Hibernians); Jean Borg (Valletta); Steve Borg (Gżira United); Zach Muscat (Casa Pia – POR); 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).
The match will be controlled by French female referee Stephanie Frappart, who will be assisted by Aurelien Drouet and Mikel Berchebru with Willy Delajod acting as fourth official.
Frappart had controlled the 2019 UEFA Super Cup final between Liverpool and Chelsea in Istanbul.