Malta hosts Estonia in another important UEFA Nations League clash

Following a 2-0 win over San Marino away from home, Malta hosts Estonia in another match from Group D2 of the UEFA Nations League at the National Stadium on Thursday, kick-off at 20:45.

For both Malta and Estonia, this will be the second match from the group with Estonia also winning the game against San Marino – at home – 2-0. This should therefore be one of two direct clashes which should determine which team will make it to League C.

In the 2020/21 edition, Estonia had already played in League C but finished at the bottom of a group which included Armenia, North Macedonia and Georgia, losing on aggregate to Cyprus in the play-outs. Malta, on the other hand, missed out on promotion from League D after finishing second in the group which included group winners Faroe Islands, Latvia and Andorra.

Addressing the media on Wednesday, Mangia insisted this game will not be decided but it was the clash between the two in September which mattered most.

“My opinion is that the game in September will decide. We have to play our football. Be focussed on our performance and not lose energy on other things.”

“The game of San Marino was important. The result was important for sure. I think that the result gave us more confidence. At the end, we obtained the same result of Estonia with San Marino …. with a difference that they played at 6 o’clock in Estonia and we had to play at 3 o’clock in San Marino. This is the difference that when someone had to take the decision about the kick-off time had to think about.”

With regards to Estonia, Mangia said “Their ranking speaks for itself. We are 169, they are 110. They are strong from a physical point of view. Their championship has a different schedule than ours and they are mid-way through the season. We know what they want from this game. They have good players but this cannot change our philosophy and our idea of football. We go on the pitch and try to play our football.”

“We are expecting a difficult game. It is normal, considering the ranking of our opponent but we will go on the pitch to play our game.  We will see that we are able to read particular moments in the game but for sure, we will go out to play our idea of football.”

Photos courtesy of domenic aquilina / Malta FA

Captain Steve Borg added “We are expecting a good game. I think it will be a difficult game for both teams. We are going there to win and so we are focussed on our style of football, focussed on our game and on giving our hundred per cent on the pitch.”

“The most important thing is that we want to win … not that we have to win. We are focussed on that. We are sure the team will give its hundred percent.”

When asked whether the more experienced players have a more important role in nurturing the several younger players in the squad, captain Steve Borg said “All players have the same importance, myself and all the players. We are all on the same level. This is a group which is very collective. We are one team and there are no individuals.”

For Thursday’s game, the Malta coach welcomes back Ryan Camenzuli and Teddy Teuma who skipped the match in San Marino due to a one-match ban.

“All the players are available. We will see today (Wednesday) about the condition of the players and then we will take the best decision for tomorrow.  

Mangia is not expected to make much changes to the team which defeated San Marino with both Camenzuli and Teuma expected to be named in the starting line-up.

Bonello should start in goal with Steve Borg, Pepe and Jean Borg at the back, Magri Overend and Camenzuli on the flanks, Guillaumier and Theuma in midfield with Paiber supporting Degabriele and Busuttil or Satariano up front.

The players at the disposal of Devis Mangia are:
goalkeepers Henry Bonello (Hamrun Spartans FC), Cain Formosa (San Gwann FC), Jake Galea (Balzan FC);
defenders Ferdinando Apap (Hibernians FC), Jean Borg (Valletta FC), Steve Borg (Hamrun Spartans FC), James Brown (St. Johnstone FC – SCO), Karl Micallef (Hamrun Spartans FC), Zach Muscat (Casa Pia – POR), Enrico Pepe (Birkirkara FC);
midfielders Ryan Camenzuli (Floriana FC), Juan Carlos Corbalan (Hamrun Spartans FC), Matias Nicolas Garcia (Floriana FC), Matthew Guillaumier (A.C. Siena – ITA), Adam Magri Overend (Floriana FC), Joseph Essien Mbong (Hamrun Spartans FC), Nikolai Muscat (Gżira United FC), Brandon Diego Paiber (Floriana FC), Teddy Teuma (R.U. Saint Gilloise – BE), Dunstan Vella (Hibernians FC);
forwards Jan Busuttil (Floriana FC), Jurgen Degabriele (Hibernians FC), Luke Gambin (Hamrun Spartans FC), Paul Mbong (Birkirkara FC), Luke Montebello (Birkirkara FC), Alexander Satariano (U.S. Pergolettese 1932 – ITA)

Meanwhile Estonia are coming from a 5-0 defeat to Argentina in a friendly match on Sunday – all five goals being scored by Lionel Messi. In last year’s World Cup qualifiers, Estonia finished second from bottom in a group which included Belgium, Wales, the Czech Republic and Belarus. Estonia earned a point in a goalless draw away from home to Wales in September, defeating Belarus at home 2-0.

For this game, Estonia coach Thomas Häberli welcomes back Joonas Tamm, who missed the friendly against Argentina due to family reasons after scoring one of the goals against San Marino.

The players at his disposal are:
goalkeepers Karl Jakob Hein (Arsenal – ENG), Matvei Igonen (Bielsko-Biala Podbeskidzie – POL), Karl Andre Vallner (FCI Levadia Tallinn);
defenders Sander Puri (JK Tammeka Tartu), Taijo Teniste (JK Tammeka Tartu), Karol Mets (FC Zürich – SUI), Ken Kallaste (Flora Tallinn), Joonas Tamm (Flora Tallinn), Artur Pikk (FCI Levadia Tallinn), Märten Kuusk (Újpest FC – HUN), Michael Lilander (Flora Tallinn), Maksim Paskotši (Tottenham Hotspur – ENG), Henrik Pürg (Flora Tallinn), Marco Lukka (Flora Tallinn), Rasmus Peetson (FCI Levadia Tallinn);
midfielders and forwards Konstantin Vassiljev (Flora Tallinn), Sergei Zenjov (Flora Tallinn), Henri Anier (Muangthong United FC – THA), Mattias Käit (FC Rapid – ROU), Vladislav Kreida (Skövde AIK – SWE), Erik Sorga (IFK Göteborg – SWE), Vlasiy Sinyavskiy (FC Slovacko – CZE), Martin Miller (Flora Tallinn), Markus Poom (Flora Tallinn), Robert Kirss (FCI Levadia Tallinn), Markus Soomets (Flora Tallinn), Mark Anders Lepik (Flora Tallinn), Rocco Robert Shein (FC Utrecht – NED).

Malta and Estonia met six times, so far. Malta was held by Estonia in a World Cup qualifier in October 1992 but in May 1993, Malta registered its first ever away win in a competitive match, winnning 1-0 in Tallinn courtesy of a Kristian Laferla goal. In February 2004, Malta defeated Estonia 5-2 in the Malta International Tournament. Estonia beat Malta 2-1 in a friendly match in Tallinn in August 2008 while in August 2016, Malta held Estonia in a 1-1 draw in a friendly match in Parnu. In the last meeting between the two countries, Estonia beat Malta 3-0 in a friendly match at Ta’ Qali.

The match will be controlled by Scottish officials, namely referee Bobby Madden, assistant referees David Roome and Alan Mulvanny and fourth official Craig Napier. The video assistant referee is Jochem Kamphuis from the Netherlands, assisted by Clay Ruperti.

After this game, Malta will be in action in another match from the UEFA Nations League at the National Stadium on Sunday against San Marino while Estonia will be playing a friendly match against Albania on Monday.