Malta national team head coach Devis Mangia expressed his disappointment after Malta was drawn with Croatia, Slovakia, Russia, Slovenia and Cyprus in Group H of the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying.
Addressing the media soon after the draw, Mangia said “I am disappointed. It is clear that from Pots 3, 4 and 5, there were some better options for us. The draw puts us against teams from Eastern Europe and the Balkans. It is hard but we know that all the groups were difficult. It is a big challenge for us. This will be another step for us to grow.”
“We will start to study our opponents. They are all good teams but we have to do our best and then we will see what happens on the pitch.”
“From Pot 4, we got the strongest team because I think Slovenia is a very strong team. From Pot 5, we know that we can play at par with the Faroe Islands, Latvia and Andorra. As regards, Cyprus, we have to see. They have a coach from Belgium who is a very good coach with good mentality. ”
Group H is considered as one of the strongest groups but Devis Mangia added that there were other strong groups. “Group J and Group G are not easy. Group F is strong from physical point of view with teams like Denmark, Austria and Scotland. There were definitely better options, at least on paper, than Cyprus from Pot 5, and definitely from Slovenia in Pot 4.”
Asked to comment on whether there would be less pressure considering the strength of the other teams in the group, the Malta coach said “This is another competition for us. One cannot compare this with the experience in the Nations League but I think that we have to go on the pitch to do well. We know that they are very good teams but we will see what will happen on the pitch.”
Among the players who impressed most in the past UEFA Nations League campaign was French-born Teddy Teuma. When asked whether he would push to have more foreign-based players of Maltese origin to play for the Malta national team, Mangia said. “It is not my job to do this. My job is to choose from the players who I can select. We will see if we can improve. When we have to think about other players, with regards to citizenship, we have to be, first of all, sure that they are proud to play for our national team.”