Marcolini urges players to be aggressive as Malta faces tough England task at Wembley

Malta plays the last match from Group C of the European Qualifiers leading to EURO 2024, facing England at Wembley Stadium on Friday, kick-off at 20:45 CET, in perhaps the most difficult game so far.

In the previous seven matches in the group, Malta failed to collect any points, conceding eighteen goals and scoring just two. England, on the other hand, have already secured a place in the EURO 2024 where they hope they would go a step further than the last edition when they were losing finalists to Italy.

Addressing the media on Thursday, Malta coach Michele Marcolini said “Our aim is to deliver a strong performance and make all the fans, especially those who have traveled to London, proud.” 

Marcolini said the objective for Malta is to repeat the same performance of that against Ukraine last month. He said the players played with a lot of aggressiveness, always keen to push forward and create chances but unfortunately committed some mistakes which cost Malta the chance to earn a positive result.

Photos courtesy of domenic aquilina / Malta FA

The Malta coach insisted that this does not only depend on the Maltese players but also on the quality of the opponents. He said the players need to be aggressive throughout the ninety minutes in order not allow space to the England players. The Malta coach added that that England are currently one of the top teams in the world and even if they are leading by two goals, they continue attacking with determination as if the score were still level. They have had impressive home performances, such as a 3- victory against Italy and a 7-0 win against North Macedonia.

“England might choose to rotate the squad since they have already qualified. Therefore, a number of players may be given the nod. And these players will be eager to leave their mark and impress the manager.”

“This is every boy’s dream. We are fortunate enough to be living it. Even though we anticipate challenges, we will face them together with a positive mindset and aim to deliver a commendable performance.”

Malta could have Floriana forward Kemar Reid making his debut after he acquired the Maltese passport.  Marcolini said that Reid has demonstrated his commitment to the team, something which  he said was crucial for collective success, adding that the Jamaican-born forward could get his chance on Friday.

Meanwhile Teddy Teuma, who is back in squad after missing the games against Italy and Ukraine due to an ankle injury, expressed his excitement about playing against top players and learning from the game.

Apart from Teuma, Jodi Jones will also be back for Malta after an injury ruled him out of the last two games as well. Brandon Paiber and Juan Corbalan, on the other hand, are unavailable after sustaining injuries in training while Jake Galea, Jake Vassallo, Dunstan Vella, Myles Beerman, Jake Grech, Alex Satariano and Jurgen Degabriele did not make the final cut.

The squad is made up of:

Goalkeepers Rashed Al Tumi (Sliema Wanderers FC), Henry Bonello (Hamrun Spartans FC), Matthew Grech (Zabbar St Patrick FC)

Defenders Ferdinando Apap (Hibernians FC), Jean Borg (Sliema Wanderers FC), Steve Borg (Hamrun Spartans FC), Zach Muscat (Farense – POR), Enrico Pepe (Birkirkara FC), Kurt Shaw (Hibernians FC) 

Midfielders Cain Attard (CF Os Belenenses – POR), Ryan Camenzuli (Hamrun Spartans FC), Matthew Guillaumier (FKS Stal Mielec Spolka Akcyjna – POL), Bjorn Kristensen (Hibernians FC), Adam Magri Overend (Floriana FC), Steven Pisani (Santa Lucia FC), Joseph Essien Mbong (Hamrun Spartans FC), Nikolai Muscat (Marsaxlokk FC), Teddy Teuma (Stade de Reims FC), Yannick Yankam (Birkirkara FC)

Forwards Jodi Felice Jones (Notts County – ENG), Paul Mbong (Birkirkara FC), Luke Montebello (Hamrun Spartans), Kyrian Nwoko (Floriana FC), Kemar Reid (Floriana FC)

England are unbeaten in 2023, winning seven of the eight matches played, including two friendly matches, dropping the only points in a 1-1 draw with Ukraine in September. 

Manager Gareth Southgate lost Jude Bellingham and Levi Colwill earlier this week and could opt to name some surprise faces in the starting line-up.

The full squad at his disposal is made up of:

Goalkeepers: Sam Johnstone (Crystal Palace), Jordan Pickford (Everton), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal)

Defenders: Lewis Dunk (Brighton & Hove Albion), Marc Guehi (Crystal Palace), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), Fikayo Tomori (AC Milan), Kieran Trippier (Newcastle United), Kyle Walker (Manchester City)

Midfielders: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Conor Gallagher (Chelsea), Jordan Henderson (Al-Ettifaq), Kalvin Phillips (Manchester City), Declan Rice (Arsenal)

Forwards: Jarrod Bowen (West Ham United) Phil Foden (Manchester City), Jack Grealish (Manchester City), Harry Kane (Bayern Munich), James Maddison (Tottenham Hotspur), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Ollie Watkins (Aston Villa), Callum Wilson (Newcastle United)

In two previous encounters at Wembley Stadium, England won 5-0 in May 1971 and 2-0 in October 2016.

England vs Malta will be controlled by Portuguese officials, namely referee Luis Godinho, assistant referees Rui Teixeira and Luis Campos, fourth official Ricardo Baixinho, Video Assistant Referee Hugo Miguel and Assistant VAR Helder Malheiro.