Malta hosts Venezuela in a friendly match at the National Stadium on Wednesday, kick-off at 19:00, in a final test ahead of the UEFA Nations League during which Malta will play against San Marino away from home and against Estonia and once again San Marino at Ta’ Qali in eight days.
This game presents a novelty as this is the first time Malta is playing a full international match against a team from South America and the first time that Malta will play four international matches over twelve days.
Despite the fact that Venezuela are definitely a much stronger side that these two opponents, considering that they are ranked 58th, this should be an important test for Devis Mangia’s side, especially with regards to the players’ physical condition. However, he and the players are not trying to find an excuse for this.
Addressing the media on Tuesday, Mangia said “We will try to play our game, with all the difficulties to face a team like Venezuela … it is enough to see their world ranking to see how much difficult is the game of tomorrow. They have a lot of players playing in the top championships in Europe but we will try, as usual, to play our game.”
“It will be useful for us because we will give some minutes to some players that in our opinion need to play a bit, maybe not a full game but a bit, and also give other players the possibility to show their skills at international level. They will have the opportunity to show their skills and that they deserve to stay in this group.”
Ryan Camenzuli added “We are doing quite well … with the coach and technical staff helping us to do well. It has been a long season but this is not an excuse. We have our job to do – especially the three upcoming matches and we have to perform at our best.”
Malta had started the preparations for the UEFA Nations League with two friendly matches in March, defeating Azerbaijan 1-0 and Kuwait 2-0. Two morale-boosting wins after the heavy defeats in the final two matches from the European Qualifiers leading to the World Cup. The team showed clearly that it was back on track.
Players like Kurt Shaw and Bjorn Kristensen are still ruled out injured and joining them on the casualty list are others like Steve Pisani while players like Cain Attard and Luke Montebello are still in doubt as they are still recovering from injuries.
However, on the positive side is the availability of Scottish-born defender James Brown who had to postpone his Malta debut three times as injuries ruled him out of the October, November and March international windows. Another new face is Argentinean defensive midfielder Matias Nicolas Garcia – captain of Floriana – who is now eligible to play for the national team after obtaining a Maltese passport. Both Brown and Garcia are expected to make their debut on Wednesday.
Although Mangia has to keep in mind the fact that not all players would be able to play in all the four matches, he is still expected to field a strong formation against Venezuela.
Henry Bonello starts in goal with Steve Borg, Enrico Pepe, Jean Borg and Zach Muscat battling for the three spots at the back. On the flanks, Adam Magri Overend and James Brown should be preferred to Joseph Mbong and Ryan Camenzuli while in midfield, Matias Garcia should join Matthew Guillaumier with Teddy Teuma supporting Jurgen Degabriele and Alex Satariano.
The players at the disposal of coach Devis Mangia are:
goalkeepers Henry Bonello (Hamrun), Cain Formosa (San Gwann), Jake Galea (Balzan);
defenders Ferdinando Apap (Hibs), Jean Borg (Valletta), Steve Borg (Hamrun), James Brown (St. Johnstone), Karl Micallef (Hamrun), Zach Muscat (Casa Pia), Enrico Pepe (Birkirkara);
midfielders Cain Attard (Birkirkara), Ryan Camenzuli (Floriana), Juan Carlos Corbalan (Hamrun), Matias Nicolas Garcia (Floriana), Matthew Guillaumier (Siena), Adam Magri Overend (Floriana), Joseph Essien Mbong (Hamrun), Nikolai Muscat (Gzira), Brandon Diego Paiber (Floriana), Teddy Teuma (Union St. Gilloise), Dunstan Vella (Hibs);
forwards Jan Busuttil (Floriana), Jurgen Degabriele (Hibs), Luke Gambin (Hamrun), Jake Grech (Hibs), Paul Mbong (Birkirkara), Luke Montebello (Birkirkara), Alex Satariano (Pergolettese), Mattia Veselji (Floriana).
Meanwhile Venezuela coach José Pékerman has a 26-man squad at his disposal. The squad includes well-known players like Sampdoria midfielder Tomás Rincón, Everton forward Salomón Rondón and RC Lens goalkeeper Wuilker Faríñez.
Almost all players are based abroad with ten of them based in Europe, eleven in the USA and Mexico with the other two players playing in Colombia and Israel. There are only three players based in Venezuela.
Venezuela are eager to bounce back after disappointing in recent outings. In fact, they won just two matches out of the last nineteen. defeating Ecuador 2-1 and Bolivia 4-1, claiming three drtaws with Uruguay, Colombia and Ecuador. Earlier this year, they defeated Bolivia 4-1 in January, then lost 1-4 to Uruguay and 0-3 to Argentina in two matches away from home and 0-1 to Colombia at home in the final four matches from the World Cup qualifiers.
The players selected by Pékerman are:
goalkeepers: Wuilker Fariñez (RC Lens, FRA), Joel Graterol (América de Cali, COL), Diego Gil (Puerto Cabello, VEN).
defenders: Jhon Chancellor (Zaglebie Lubin, POL), Roberto Rosales (Aek Larnaca, CYP), Nahuel Ferraresi (GD Estoril Praia, POR), Pablo Bonilla (Portland Timbres, USA), Ronald Hernández (Atlanta United, USA), Miguel Navarro (Chicago Fire, USA), Christian Makoun (Charlotte, USA)
midfielders: Tomás Rincón (Sampdoria, ITA), Eduard Bello (Mazatlán FC, MEX), Jhon Murillo (Atlético San Luis, MEX), José Martínez (Philadelphia, USA), Christian Cásseres (New York RB, USA), Yeferson Soteldo (Tigres UANL, MEX), Yangel Herrera (RCD Espanyol, ESP), Yordan Osorio (Parma, ITA), Josua Mejías (CF Beitar Jerusalén, ISR), Christian Larotonda (Metropolitanos FC, VEN)
forwards: Salomón Rondón (Everton FC, ENG), Fernando Aristeguieta (Club Puebla, MEX), Jefferson Savarino (Real Salt Lake, USA), Yohan Cumaná (Deportivo La Guaira, VEN), Alejandro Marqués (CD Mirandés, ESP), Adalberto Peñaranda (UD Las Palmas, ESP)
The match will be controlled by Kristo Tohver from Estonia who will be assisted by Silver Koiv and Sten Klaasen also from Estonia and fourth official Trustin Farrugia Cann.