Malta takes on North Macedonia hoping for a first positive result in group

After suffering the first four matches from Group C of the European Qualifiers, Malta plays the fifth game, hosting North Macedonia at the National Stadium on Tuesday, kick-off at 20:45.

On paper, North Macedonia are the second weakest team in the group since they are ranked 68th, compared to England’s fourth, Italy’s eighth and Ukraine’s twenty-fourth place but still this cannot be compared to Malta’s 171st place.

Therefore although this could be Malta’s best chance to claim a positive result, this will be no easy task.

Addressing the media on Monday, Malta national team head coach Michele Marcolini said “Finding the weak teams in our group is difficult. Even before the first match (against North Macedonia in March), I had said that North Macedonia had won against Italy (in the World Cup play-offs) and only lost the final play off to World Cup.”

After defeating Malta 2-1 in Skopje, North Macedonia lost to Ukraine by the odd goal in five and then suffered a heavy 7-0 defeat to England before holding Italy in a draw on Saturday.

“For sure, it was a bad period for them after the game against England as losing 7-0 is not easy for anyone but they played a very good game against Italy. They suffered a bit in the first half but in the second half, they played very well. They had a lot of chances, they pressed a lot and they showed that they are a very good team.”

“Elif Elmas (of Napoli) won the Serie A and Enis Bardhi (of Trabzonspor) is an amazing player. Especially, In the offensive phase, they are very dangerous. They have quality … they have strength. We know that but as in the other match, we try always to create more problems as possible to our opponents. Only against England we were not able to do it due to their strength. Against Gibraltar we played a very good match, offensively speaking. We created nine or ten chances to score. But football not only depends on us but also the opponent we have to play against. The most important thing is to focus on ourselves. We do our best and only like that we can hope to score and win or get a draw. We have to focus only on ourselves.”

“The match against Gibraltar was very important for us as we had the chance to do a different kind match compared to the matches that we played before. We played with a different system. We tried to do something different … some different movement, offensively and we crated a lot. Against Macedonia, We have to pay attention a lot to their striker and attacking midfielder. Against us, it was Elmas while Bardhi played against Italy but both are high quality players. We have to try to hurt them if they concede us some space although I am sure they will come here to try to win. But we have our ideas and we continue following them. We do not have to think too much. We have to do what we planned as we did against Gibraltar and then we will see what the pitch will say.”

Marcolini once again complained about the fact that several players had not played any official matches this season.

“(Against Gibraltar,) we showed a very good physical condition as we had 70 per cent possession. It is easier to run with the ball than without. To start an international window without playing any official matches is not a very good thing but apart from that we played a good match. The recovery after the match was really tough, tougher than normal. For several players, this was  first official match and therefore they needed much more time to recover fully. We were lucky that we organised the friendly match six days before this game. If we had to play after three days, it would have been the first day they start to find the right condition. We did not show any kind of problems against Gibraltar. During the training camp, the players training without problems and pushed a lot and I am happy about that. I hope that against North Macedonia will show the same physical condition.”

Photos courtesy of domenic aquilina / Malta FA

Meanwhile Zach Muscat who is now playing in the Portuguese top division for Farense said that teamwork was key when playing highly-rated opponents.

“Our ranking is lower than theirs and individually, on paper, they have some players with high quality. There is only one secret .. teamwork. We have a group of not just colleagues but friends. This is the secret. We are a small island … many of us have known each other since we were young and we spent our careers playing in the same league and with those who play abroad, we keep contact. This is the secret. We must use this camraderie, friendship and unity which other teams maybe do not have. We will go on the pitch, fighting as a family. We have to fight for each other and for each ball and with the tactical information of our coach and our individual qualities, we must put this on the pitch and focus on this as it is the teamwork which bridge the gap where other qualities do not.”

Michele Marcolini will have the full squad at his disposal with no players ruled out through injuries or suspensions and therefore should opt for the typical formation which did quite well in the last qualifier against Ukraine last June, losing by just one goal.

Henry Bonello will start in goal with Zach Muscat, Steve Borg and one among Enrico Pepe, Jean Borg and Kurt Shaw at the back, Joseph Mbong and Ryan Camenzuli or Cain Attard on the flanks; in midfield Matthew Guillaumier will be joined by Teddy Teuma and probably Yannick Yankam with Jodi Jones and Kyrian Nwoko or Jurgen Degabriele up front although Paul Mbong could be another option.

The full squad is made up of:

Goalkeepers Henry Bonello (Hamrun Spartans FC), Matthew Grech (Zabbar St Patrick’s FC), Jake Galea (Valletta FC)

Defenders Steve Borg (Hamrun Spartans FC), Zach Muscat (Farense – POR), Enrico Pepe (Birkirkara FC), Kurt Shaw (Hibernians FC), Jean Borg (Sliema Wanderers FC), Cain Attard (CF Os Belenenses – POR)

Midfielders Juan Corbalan (Hamrun Spartans FC), Ryan Camenzuli (Hamrun Spartans FC), Adam Magri Overend (Floriana FC), Steven Pisani (Santa Lucia FC), Matthew Guillaumier (FKS Stal Mielec Spolka Akcyjna – POL), Nikolai Muscat (Marsaxlokk FC), Bjorn Kristensen (Hibernians FC), Brandon Diego Paiber (Valletta FC), Yannick Yankam (Birkirkara FC), Teddy Teuma (Stade de Reims FC), Jake Grech (Balzan FC), Joseph Essien Mbong (Hamrun Spartans FC)

Forwards Jurgen Degabriele (Hibernians FC), Jodi Felice Jones (Notts County – ENG), Kyrian Nwoko (Floriana FC), Paul Mbong (Birkirkara FC), Luke Montebello (Hamrun Spartans).

Photos courtesy of domenic aquilina / Malta FA

Meanwhile, North Macedonia will be coming to Malta for the three points in their bid to, at least, claim third place in the group. They earned four points so far from the first four matches and a win on Tuesday would keep their hopes alive.

The squad, named by coach Blagoja Milevski, includes several players playing top level football around Europe.

The squad includes:
goalkeepers Stole Dimitrievski (Rayo Vallecano), Igor Aleksovski (Rabotnichki), Damjan Shishkovski (Doxa CYP);
defenders Ahmed Iljazovski (Hvidovre – DEN), Stefan Ashkovski (Lamia GRE), Gjoko Zajkov (Universitatea Craiova ROM), Visar Musliu (Paderborn 07 GER), Ezgjan Alioski (Al-Ahli SAU), Nikola Serafimov (Fehérvár HUN), Jovan Manev (Osijek CRO), Bojan Dimoski (Akron RUS), Darko Velkovski (unattached);
midfielders Arijan Ademi (Dinamo Zagreb CRO), Elif Elmas (Napoli ITA), Enis Bardhi (Trabzonspor TUR), Jani Atanasov (Cracovia POL), David Babunski (Mezőkövesd HUN), Agon Elezi (Varaždin CRO), Isnik Alimi (Sepsi OSK ROM), Dimitar Mitrovski (Varaždin CRO), Davor Zdravkovski (Motherwell SCO);
forwards Aleksandar Trajkovski (unattached), Ljupcho Doriev (Sogdiana UZB), Milan Ristovski (Spartak Trnava SVK), Bojan Miovski (Aberdeen SCO), Ilija Nestorovski (Ascoli ITA), Dorian Babunski (Grasshopper SUI).

Malta and North Macedonia met seven times with Malta only managing a 1-1 draw in a friendly match in August 2010. In the other matches played in Malta, North Macedonia won 2-0 a friendly match in November 1996 and 2-1 in a EURO qualifier in November 1998.

Football enthusiasts can secure their seats, and ticket prices are as follows:

  • West Stand*: €20 (Children under 12, Seniors, and Concessions – €10)
  • Millennium Stand*: €10 (Children under 12, Seniors, and Concessions – €5)
  • North Stand (for AWAY FANS)*: €8 (Children under 12, Seniors, and Concessions – €4)

For those seeking an unforgettable atmosphere, the South End Core will be placed in the Millennium D section, ensuring a vibrant and electric crowd experience. Additionally, the Trophies Lounge will be open, offering fans an enhanced matchday experience.

Ticket Purchase Options
Tickets can be conveniently purchased online from or the designated tickets booths at the stadia on matchday