Euro 2024 Qualifying: What are some realistic aims for Malta?

It’s not easy to be a fan of the Maltese national football team. The side has only ever won eleven competitive international games, which is as many as the French national side has won across the last two World Cups. With the draw for Euro 2024, things haven’t got any easier. Group C has seen the Maltese placed in a group which also contains Italy, England, Ukraine and North Macedonia. This won’t have fans rushing to to back Teddy Teuma, Matthew Guillaumier and Co. to overturn the patterns of the past, given that all four of the in-group opponents were present at Euro 2020, and two of them contested the final.

Of course, when you’re in the shoes of a national team like Malta, you learn to take the positives where you can find them. Outside of a forgiving Nations League draw, we’re not going to be lifting any trophies, and even winning two games in a row is going to be tough any time soon. But optimism is an essential ingredient in being a supporter of an international minnow team, and there are countries that have it worse, so let’s set some parameters for what would be a successful qualifying campaign for Michele Marcolini’s men…

Win one game

To emerge with anything other than a defeat from the six games that will take place against England, Italy and Ukraine would be verging on miraculous given the comparison in resources between Malta and those teams. However, despite an appearance at Euro 2020 and victory over Italy in a playoff for Qatar 2022, North Macedonia are not so far ahead that a win over them would be unthinkable. With Goran Pandev having retired, the Balkan side aren’t as potent in attack anymore, and a stubborn defensive performance could be a platform for a narrow win against a nation Malta has beaten once before.

Make life nervous for England or Italy

Only the top two sides in this group will make it to Euro 2024, which should mean that England and Italy are the ones to progress. To achieve that, both will feel that a total of twelve points from their games against Malta and North Macedonia are essential. They should both achieve this too, but even the top European sides often have a qualifying game where it all looks like it’s going off the rails. If Malta can reach half time with the scores level against either of those sides, they’ll gain a lot of confidence and some idea of how to manage games against the odds – which will be invaluable against second- and third-tier nations who we’ll need to start competing against to show signs of progress.

Take a point or more from Ukraine

Malta have, of course, beaten the Ukrainian national team in recent years, picking up a 1-0 win in a 2017 friendly. Tournament play is different, of course, but Ukraine are definitely not the same side they were in the heyday of Andriy Shevchenko and Serhiy Rebrov. The Maltese FA’s technical project is in its infancy, but it would be a very encouraging sign if the ambition which underpins it were to be boosted with a positive result against a mid-ranging European nation such as Oleksandr Petrakov’s side

Photo courtesy of domenic aquilina