Following a disappointing performance against England on Friday, Malta will be hoping to bounce back as Michele Marcolini’s side faces Ukraine at the Štadión Antona Malatinského in Trnava on Monday, kick-off at 18:00.
On Friday, the boys in red failed to create a single goal scoring opportunity and in Trnava, Malta will be facing another difficult test. In fact, after losing to England in their first outing, Ukraine registered their first win as they came from behind to beat North Macedonia 3-2 in Skopje.
After the game, the Malta coach said “We did not shoot at goal because England for ninety minutes pressed very high and did not give us the chance to play.”
Marcolini said the physical difference between the two sets of players was clear and admitted that in such a match and considering the attitude of the opponents, it was really tough for Malta.
The game against Ukraine will only be the second one between the two countries. Ukraine had hosted Malta in a training camp in Austria in June 2017 with Malta emerging as winner thanks to an early goal by Zach Muscat.
Photos courtesy of domenic aquilina / Malta FA
Addressing the media on Sunday, Michele Marcolini admitted that Malta was in a very challenging group and all matches are tough games. However, the Malta coach said he remains focused on finding ways to overcome their opponents and secure positive results.
Marcolini said Ukraine had a talented squad with a number of players who ply their trade in some of the top teams in Europe.
The Malta coach admitted that Malta needed to improve over the performance against England, saying he was determined to do things differently. He stressed the need to be more of a threat to opponents and find ways to exploit their weaknesses.
Teddy Teuma spoke about the challenges of playing away from home while Marcolini conveyed the team’s sympathy for Ukraine, unable to play on their home ground. He acknowledged the significance of home games for teams and supporters alike, expressing hope that Ukraine would soon be able to host matches in their own stadium once again. While acknowledging the difficulties faced by both teams playing away, Teddy Teuma emphasised that top-level players adapt themselves more easily.
The only Malta player not to make the trip to Slovakia was Bjorn Kristensen and therefore Marcolini will make at least one change from the team which faced England with Yannick Yankam probably replacing him. Ryan Camenzuli and Alexander Satariano could also make it to the starting line-up on Monday.
Meanwhile Ukraine travelled to Trnava following a most dramatic win over North Macedonia which put them on level points with the former Yugoslav Republic and Italy on three points, six behind leaders England. Earlier last week, they held Germany in a 3-3 draw in a friendly match in Bremen.
A win is a must for Serhiy Rebrov’s side as they would move three points clear of Italy and possibly North Macedonia who will be facing England in another match on Monday.
The players at the disposal of coach Serhiy Rebrov are:
Goalkeepers: Georgy Bushchan (Dynamo Kyiv), Anatoly Trubin (Shakhtar Donetsk), Andriy Lunin (Real Madrid).
Defenders: Mykola Matvienko, Yukhym Konoplia (both Shakhtar Donetsk), Oleksandr Tymchyk (Dynamo Kyiv), Oleksandr Svatok (SC Dnipro-1 Dnipro), Vitaly Mykolenko (Everton), Ilya Zabarny (Bournemouth), Eduard Sobol (Strasbourg), Sergey Kryvtsov (Inter Miami).
Midfielders: Taras Stepanenko, Oleksandr Zubkov, Georgy Sudakov (all Shakhtar Donetsk), Serhiy Sydorchuk, Vitaly Buyalskyi (both Dynamo Kyiv), Andriy Yarmolenko (Al Ain – UAE), Ruslan Malinovskyi (Olympique Marseille), Viktor Tsygankov (Girona), Mykhailo Mudryk (Chelsea), Danylo Ignatenko (Bordeaux)
Forwards: Artem Dovbyk (SC Dnipro-1 Dnipro), Vladyslav Vanat (Dynamo Kyiv).
The match will be controlled by referee Ruddy Buquet, who will be assisted by Nicolas Danos and Aurélien Drouet, fourth offcial Bastien Dechepy, Video Assistant Referee Benoît Millot and Assistant Video Assistant Referee Eric Wattellier