Malta take on Belarus in a friendly test on Tuesday

After a fine performance in a 2-2 draw with Slovenia on Thursday, the Malta national team hosts Belarus in another friendly match at the National Stadium on Tuesday, kick-off at 19:00.

Once again this should prove to be another important test for Michele Marcolini’s side ahead of the UEFA Nations League commitments starting in September with two away clashes against Moldova and Andorra.

Against Slovenia, Malta played a good game, reacting well to the visitors’ lead to turn the score in their favour before Slovenia notched a late equaliser.

Photo courtesy of domenic aquilina

Addressing the media on Monday, Marcolini agreed that the team’s performance is improving.

“For everything new it takes time … to make new ideas understood and to get to know each other better. I don’t think it was easy for them either … they had a radical change in the technical staff and found themselves having to do different things from before without having much time to try because basically in the national team we don’t have much time to train. It is one thing being in a club and training daily … it is much easier to leave your mark earlier.”

“Our relationship has also grown a lot compared to the beginning. This is a decisive aspect of our growth. I have always focused a lot on the players. I believe that from this point of view as a group we saw a lot in the final part of the last match against Slovenia. We gave a great show of character, compactness and unity. When we had to fight, we fought as a team. These are all aspects which should not be underestimated,” said the Malta coach.

“I think that following my appointment as coach, we had a very uphill start, because the matches were so difficult and when faced with negative results it’s normal to always see the the negative thing rather than the positive. I believe that there were good performances not only against England and Ukraine, who were certainly considered as the best by everyone. There was for example the game against North Macedonia. When you lose to a team that is not highly ranked, everything is seen negatively. Regardless, this is part of the game. I’m happy with the growth of this group of players and I hope this continues in the next match. Hopefully I would like to avoid making a false step after a great result against a team that also showed its value here a few years ago. It was a great result and a great performance. We have to continue like this. We will be facing Belarus who are a strong team, ninety five in the ranking and who above all have great physicality. But I expect a tough match, like the one against Slovenia, from which, to get a positive result, we need to give more than one hundred percent.”

“I don’t know what’s the limit. I believe in this group. I’ve always said it, even when the results were not in our favour. I cannot forget that we achieved a great result in Luxembourg which was underestimated. This result (against Slovenia) must give us more strength to continue our journey. It must give us more awareness because the more awareness we have, the harder we can push.”

With regards to the choice of players, especially with the UEFA Nations League commitments in mind, Marcolini said “The door is always open to everyone and never locked for anyone. I have made choices in other times. In this window I made different ones. It will depend on what I see in the period near the window. As a coach, I have to understand what the players have done so far with the national team but also watch what they see in the Premier League. I am going to evaluate all this. “

“In this window, I opted for Lonardelli and Portelli. Nevin showed interesting things, he scored goals but above all, he gave the idea of ​​having the right characteristics to help us, he fights and jumps for the ball. He won a lot of fouls in the second half and allowed the team to come back. Lonardelli has an extraordinary attitude. He always seems like he plays in the World Cup final. We need this type of players. We must start from this type of attitude, personality and character. For us every match, every friendly must be a final. We have to live everything like this. Those players who show this kind of attitude definitely are a step foward and attract my attention. We will see what happens in the future and with our staff, we scout ninety/ninety five percent of the matches. We analyse all the details and hope to choose the players who can give us the most. “

With regards to Tuesday’s game, the Malta coach said “I think I will make four or five changes from the lineup seen against Slovenia. Partly because I can rest regular players who were protagonists. Of course, I will try to maintain a backbone. Surely we will see some new names and those who don’t have space from the start, I hope to give them space in the second half regardless of how the match may go, hopefully in a positive way. I can’t guarantee that everyone will play. My intention is to see as much of the players as possible.”

“I don’t want to put eight players who are not used to playing together because it would be counterproductive. I have to bring in some new players who have played less and therefore alternate them. Everyone who is here deserves to play and I hope to give as many minutes as possible to everyone. Then I have to take the matches into account as they go,” concluded Marcolini.

Meanwhile Joseph Mbong, who was employed as a left full back on Thursday, explained that he was a bit sceptic at first however he shared his willingness to adapt to different roles within the team, reflecting the team’s collective dedication to success. 

Mbong expressed confidence in the team’s ability to perform if they follow instructions and replicate the spirit shown against Slovenia. He also acknowledged the importance of fan support, noting that even though they are accustomed to playing in front of smaller crowds during domestic league matches, the presence of supporters provides an added motivation for the team.

Belarus are coming from a 0-2 defeat to Montenegro in a friendly match in Turkey last week. In the European Qualifiers, they finished foruth in a grop which included Romania and Switzerland, collecting twelve points from ten matches. Following defeats to Switzerland, Romania and Israel, they defeated Kosovo at home, were held in a draw by Andorra away from home, lost to Israel but then earned points in draws with Romania and Switzerland, defeating Andorra and Kosovo in the final two games.

Malta and Belarus met four times. In the EURO 96 qualifiers, Malta held Belarus in a 1-1 draw in April 1995 but then lost 0-2 at Ta’ Qali in November 1995. In February 2004, Belarus defeated Malta 4-0 and four years later, Belarus defeated Malta 1-0 in matches from the Malta International Tournament.