Malta hosts Israel in friendly match on Tuesday

After the end of the UEFA Nations League campaign, focus will turn to the EURO 2024 qualifiers which get underway in March 2023 and preparations for these qualifiers start on Tuesday with a friendly match against Israel at the National Stadium, kick-off at 21:00.

This game will therefore provide an opportunity to give more playing time to players who did not feature regularly in the UEFA Nations League matches in the past months.

Addressing the media on Monday, Devis Mangia, who have since been temporarily relieved of his duties and will be replaced by Davide Mazzotta on Tuesday, said “We will make some changes because I want to see other players. Regarding how many, I will decide after today’s training session to check about the condition of the players, considering that we have Zach Muscat ruled out. The other twenty four players are available.”

Israel should provide a tough test for Malta, considering that they have just won promotion to League A after winning Group B2 which featured Iceland and Albania. They drew 2-2 with Iceland at home and away, defeating Albania 2-1 at home and away.

“It is a difficult friendly because Israel is a good team. They have just won promotion to League A, so clearly they are a very good team. To be honest, I do not like the fact that we always play friendly matches at home because when you go abroad, you find something different. We will adapt to the situation.”

“Against Estonia, we decided to change the system in that game because we want to put more pressure on them high up and I think that everything was done in the right way because in my opinion,  it is true that in the first half we conceded something due to our mistakes … there were two transitions due to our technical mistakes and same thing in the incident leading to the penalty.”

“We played with a system out of possession and we changed something in possession in the game in Estonia to cover the ball high up. In possession, we created some good things although we did mistakes in the final passes. There were 1v1 situations where they recovered the ball due to speed. So it is possible that tomorrow, we will try to do the same to try to choose the system that allows us to cover the ball high up.”

“We will work to put a team or some players which we need to give them chance to play and show their skills or maybe reconfirm some players which we feel they need to play more to gain more experience. This is a friendly to prepare for the EURO qualifiers and not for the UEFA Nations League, which is not my problem (since his contract expires in December 2023 after the EURO qualifiers).”

Meanwhile Joseph Mbong, who moved to Israel to play for Hapoel Kiryat Shmona, said “This will be a very intense game. They are a very direct team. Most of the teams in Israel play that way with high intensity, a lot of pressing with fast, strong players. This will be no easy game. However, we are preparing well for the game and I believe we will have a good performance.”

Mbong added that this move was beneficial for him. “Fitness wise, I feel great at the moment. The speed of the game makes you have to think faster. It helps when you play in high intensity and high level football.”

Malta and Israel met eight times – four friendly matches and four European Championship qualifiers. Israel won eight matches, the other two ending in draws – a 1-1 draw in a friendly match away from home in December 1987 and a 2=2 draw in a European Championship qualifier in September 2003 at a neutral venue – in Turkey. In the three matches played on home soil, Malta lost 1-2 in a friendly match in January 1989, 0-2 in a EURO 2004 qualifier in October 2002 and 0-2 in a EURO 2012 qualifier in October 2011.