For the second time in a row, Malta missed out on promotion to League C of the UEFA Nations League in the last game. Two years ago, Malta needed a win at home against the Faroe Islands but a draw handed the Faroese promotion and this time, Malta needed to beat Estonia by two goals but lost 2-1 following the dismissal of Jean Borg before the end of the first half.
Having to win in Estonia was the consequence for a 1-2 defeat to the Baltic side at Ta’ Qali.
Speaking after Friday’s game, Mangia said “We compromised a bit qualification in the game in Malta. We did some mistakes which cost us the result because to come here, for example, without playing our best game and come here with a draw, would have been different with regards of the plan for this game.”
In Tallinn, the team disappointed during the first half, being constantly on the receiving end. Rather than sticking to a 3-4-3 or 3-5-2 formation, Mangia opted for a 4-2-3-1 formation with Jean Borg and Cain Attard in defence, Jodi Jones on the left wing as Alex Satariano as the only striker. Following the dismissal of Jean Borg, the Malta coach replaced Jones with Steve Borg. Ironically, in ten men, the team played better football
“About the second half, I cannot say nothing. We played well despite an individual mistake when we conceded the second goal, like what happened in June. With regards to the first half, like I was expecting, we created some situations …. some potential opportunities. If you watch again the game, you will see that there are at least three, four situations where we put a player in a situation 1 v 1 … one of the best things that can happen in a football match … but although we started at an advantage, at the end, we did not win the ball …. they won the ball. “
“The difference is from a physical point of view. When you start a 1 v 1 and you have the advantage but they recover the ball. They have more speed …. they have more power than us.”
“The problem of the first half is the fact that we went from a possible opportunity of having one player alone against their goalkeeper … we did a mistake in the final pass and from that situation, we conceded an Estonia transition and from that transition, we conceded a penalty and a red card. After the first half, we planned to do something but after that red card, we had to change again the plan and then with one player less, it is difficult. “
“We started with a difficult tactical system … we played 4-2-3-1 out of possession and after we made some adjustments in the possession phase. Everything was planned in the right way in my opinion but the problem was the red card, rather than the penalty. To concede one goal was a possibility because, in any case, we had to score two. The problem was therefore not conceding a goal but the red card which compromised things.”
“In the second half we played better but they pressed less than in the first half. The physical aspect was more balanced in the second half. We managed the ball better,” said Mangia.
One problem the Malta coach has been facing is the lack of options available in particular positions.
“Alex Satariano, in my opinion, had a positive game because is a player who gives a lot out of possession. From a technical point of view, in June we made more mistakes. In the first half, we had a good possibility to score from a corner. We tried something and although to be honest, he did not receive a perfect ball, he was able to control the ball and give an assist to Cain Attard. The problem is that Satariano between last season and now, he played more with the national team than at club level. The things are changing as he is now playing at Balzan and this is good for us.“
“Unfortunately we do not have much options. We try sometimes to use Luke Montebello but he plays as a striker only with the national team as at club level, he has not played as a striker for the past two years. We can adapt Jurgen but in that case, you lose from physical structure. “
“To build a team, the competition is always positive. They are the two players I can call. If we did not concede the second goal, I was ready to take Pepe out and put in Montebello and add another striker. But if you decide to start with two tall striikers but then you cannot say how many minutes they could play, considering that Alex only started playing now and Luke did not play in Europe but only started playing in the league.
The Malta FA Technical Centre is always on the look out for players who would be eligible to play for the national team.
“Regarding the situation of Cardona … maybe I was expecting something different but it did not happen. We have good players and I am lucky that these players never had an injury and I cannot imagine what I would have had to do if they had a physical problem. I am really open to other Maltese strikers who could play for the national team. There are some young players but they need time … players like Veselji but he is still really young and is not playing a lot. We have to work on our young players but in the short term.”
With regards to Jodi Jones, Mangia said “He arrived on Monday and trained with us on Tuesday and Wednesday. We did not have a proper evaluation of his physical condition, to be honest. In the last two years, he practically did not play (due to injuries) and played just a few minutes this season with Oxford. However since we planned the game with two players always wide and we saw that he had a good foot for crosses and 1 v 1, the decision was either to start with him or include him in the last thirty minutes. We decided to start with him and then see how many minutes he could play because otherwise, it would be difficult to make another substitution in the last thirty minutes. I think he played an intelligent game. He plays simple, he was really involved in the preparation for the game which is a very good signal for me. After the red card, since I did not know how many more minutes he could give, I decide to replace him which was also a tactical decision to put at least two central backs.”
In Tallinn, Matthew Guillaumier and Teddy Teuma once again stood out for Malta.
Devis Mangia explained that “Matthew Guillaumier knows that I was not happy in June but I think, he was not happy himself either about his performance. Today he played a great game with confidence. Together with Teddy Teuma, they are players which are the future of the national team.”
The focus will now turn to the next matches, starting with the game against Israel on Tuesday at Ta’ Qali, one or two friendly matches in November – including the friendly against the Republic of Ireland ahead of the EURO 2024 qualifiers – the draws for which will be held on October 9 in Frankfurt.
“I think we now have to prepare the last game of this international window. The we have to sit down with my staff to make an evaluation, considering that the target would now be for the next UEFA Nations League. It is clear that we will try to win points in the EURO qualifiers. Some players could gain more experience to prepare for the Nations League. This is just an idea because we have to see since it depends on a lot of things …. on what will happen in these months.”
“We have time to make some evaluation … not to exclude players but to give more playing time and experience to some players for future of the national team.”
“A lot will depend on what will be the decision for the future. Some of the players in the UEFA Under-19 Championship finals, which will be a very difficult task for us, will move on to the Under-21 and if some players deserve, they could also join the senior team. I think that I showed that I do not have any kind of problem to include young players on the pitch. Today I did the same and some of them, I gave them the possibility to play, even if not in their usual position but sometimes we have to adapt.”
With regards to other positions, Mangia said “In some positions we are working. Regarding a centre back, we are looking abroad and working a lot with some young players.“
“There are some very promising centre backs but I hope they have the chance to show whether they are good or not. In my opinion, you have to give the chance to the young player and after you see if they deserve to play. If they deserve, they stay. There are already some players born 2004 who are already playing in the league. We can increase this number and not end up with having players making their Premier League debut when they are old. You cannot give a player the possibility to show his skill when he is twenty five years old. If a player is good, at 17 or 18, they have to play. They will definitely have ups and downs.”
With regards to his future, Devis Mangia said “I have a contract until the 31st December 2023, and therefore one has to ask the MFA.”