Malta takes on Ireland at the National Stadium on Sunday, kick-off at 20:00, in another test ahead of next year’s European Qualifiers leading to EURO 2024 which will see Malta facing England, Italy, Ukraine and North Macedonia in Group C.
This will be a difficult test for the team led by interim coach Gilbert Agius considering that the Republic of Ireland are currently ranked 49th. In the UEFA Nations League, they played in League B, placing third in Group B1 behind Scotland and Ukraine while in the qualifiers leading to the World Cup, they had placed third in Group A behind Serbia and Portugal.
In seven encounters between Malta and Ireland, the latter always emerged as winners, the last clash being in September 1999 when the Republic of Ireland won 3-2 at Ta’ Qali in a EURO 2000 qualifier.
Photos courtesy of domenic aquilina / Malta FA
“Friendly games like this help the players prepare not just physically but also mentally,” said Gilbert Agius
He said that together with his assistants Davide Mazzotta and Alessandro Zinnari, they have analysed the recent games of Ireland and know that they play dynamic football and have powerful and experienced players. Malta should be humble enough to forget the recent good results and focus on the next game, work hard, and be disciplined.
Following the UEFA Nations League commitments, Malta played two friendly matches, defeating Israel 2-1 in September and last Thursday had another fine performance in a 2-2 draw with Greece.
Gilbert Agius stressed that despite being very close in the FIFA Rankings, one should not compare Greece and Ireland.
After the game against Greece, Steve Borg, Jean Borg and Joseph Mbong are in doubt and Agius will have to check whether they would be fit to play on Sunday.
Meanwhile Matthew Guillaumier said that the team has prepared well and the players will focus to deliver their game plan. The team will try to get something out of this match, if not a result it will be an experience from which to learn. The Hamrun Spartans midfielder added that winning would be a good result and a good morale booster but winning games that matter was more important.
The squad is made up of :
goalkeepers Henry Bonello (Ħamrun Spartans FC), Jake Galea (Ettelbruck – LUX), Rashed Al Tumi (Sliema Wanderers FC);
defenders Ferdinando Apap (Hibernians FC), Jean Borg (Valletta FC), Steve Borg (Ħamrun Spartans FC), Karl Micallef (Gudja United FC), Kurt Shaw (Hibernians FC), Zach Muscat (Farense – POR), Enrico Pepe (Birkirkara FC);
midfielders Juan Corbalan (Ħamrun Spartans FC), Ryan Camenzuli (Ħamrun Spartans FC), Steven Pisani (Gżira United FC), Matthew Guillaumier (Ħamrun Spartans FC), Bjorn Kristensen (Hibernians FC), Adam Magri Overend (Floriana FC), Brandon Diego Paiber (Valletta FC), Teddy Teuma (R.U. Saint Gilloise – BEL), Dunstan Vella (Hibernians FC);
forwards Jurgen Degabriele (Hibernians FC), Shaun Dimech (Valletta FC), Luke Gambin (Sutton United FC – ENG), Jodi Felice Jones (Oxford United FC – ENG), Joseph Essien Mbong (Kiryat Shmona – ISR), Paul Mbong (Birkirkara FC), Luke Montebello (Ħamrun Spartans FC), Kyrian Nwoko (Floriana), Alexander Satariano (Balzan FC).
Ireland are coming from a 1-2 defeat to Norway at home on Thursday.
Coach Stephen Kenny named a 26-man squad for these two matches. Brighton and Hove Albion striker Evan Ferguson received his first call-up to the senior international squad as well as midfielder Will Smallbone who also moves up from the U-21s with Ferguson making his debut in the Norway game.
Liverpool goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher, Middlesbrough defender Darragh Lenihan, Dundee United midfielder Jamie McGrath along with Aberdeen defender Liam Scales and Wigan Athletic striker Will Keane were called back in the squad.
Goalkeepers: Caoimhin Kelleher (Liverpool), Gavin Bazunu (Southampton), Mark Travers (AFC Bournemouth).
Defenders: Seamus Coleman (Everton), Matt Doherty (Tottenham Hotspur), Nathan Collins (Wolverhampton Wanderers), John Egan (Sheffield United), Dara O’Shea (West Bromwich Albion), Darragh Lenihan (Middlesbrough), Liam Scales (Aberdeen, on loan from Celtic), James McClean (Wigan Athletic), Robbie Brady (Preston North End), Mark Sykes (Bristol City).
Midfielders: Josh Cullen (Burnley), Jeff Hendrick (Reading, on loan from Newcastle United), Jayson Molumby (West Bromwich Albion), Alan Browne (Preston North End), Will Smallbone (Stoke City, on loan from Southampton), Jamie McGrath (Dundee United, on loan from Wigan Athletic).
Forwards: Michael Obafemi (Swansea City), Callum Robinson (Cardiff City), Chiedozie Ogbene (Rotherham United), Evan Ferguson (Brighton and Hove Albion), Callum O’Dowda (Cardiff City).