Malta will play their first competitive match in 10 months today as they meet the Faroe Islands in the opening 2020/21 UEFA Nations League Group D1 match at the Trosvollur Stadium (kick-off 8.45pm– Malta time).
Devis Mangia, who will be taking charge of his match since his appointment as Head Coach of the National Teams, delivered an uplifiting message, stressing his faith in his squad and the importance of approaching this game with the right attitude.
“We will go on the pitch to play our game,” Mangia said at the pre-match news conference.
“I have great respect for Faroe Islands but I prefer to concentrate on my squad rather than the opposing team.
“I know that Malta and Faroe Islands have met several times but I would like to think that we are about to start new chapter. We need to be smart to construct something during this period. It is clear that a four-year project can’t be completed in one week. However, I already have certain situations and plans in mind and I would like to see these implemented on the pitch. The players know this very well.”
This will be the fifth meeting with Faroe Islands in the last two years as the two nations were in also in the same group in the inaugural UEFA Nations League competition and the EURO 2020 qualifying campaign. Faroe Islands have won two encounters, Malta prevailed in one and the other match ended in a draw.
Mangia is aware that Faroe Islands could have an edge in terms of match fitness as their teams have already played 17 matches in the domestic championship but he believes our players will rise to the challenge.
“Our players are ok,” he said. “We know the our problems we may encounter during the game as we know that they (Faroe) have played a lot of games from the championship whereas we haven’t.
“This is a question we must be able to manage during the game. As for the result… for me the performance is important. It’s about how we approach and how we will play the game – this is my target.”
Apart from Faroe Islands, the other teams in the UEFA Nations League Group D1 are Andorra and Latvia. Malta will play against the latter in their second group match at the National Stadium on Sunday.
Mangia is eyeing sustained improvement from his team in this competition, stressing that the aim is to strive to reach higher standards consistently.
“We have to think we can do everything,” the Malta coach said.
“We can’t think in way that if we set a target and we manage to reach that position, then we can be happy. We must try to do and gain something better, take it match by match – this is the right mentality for me.”
Mangia’s 23-man squad for the Faroe Islands match is mix of experience and youth with 19-year-old forwards Shaun Dimech (Valletta) and Paul Mbong (Birkirkara) among seven uncapped players.
Defender Andrei Agius is the most experienced and representative player in the current Malta squad. The 34-year-old spoke of the players’ determination to translate the ideas of Mangia and his coach staff into strong performances on the pitch.
“Every coach has his own approach and mentality,” the Hibernians defender said.
“We will be doing our utmost to show the attitude the coach wants from us on the pitch.
“We are going to take a pro-active approach but we also need to keep in mind that maybe physically we are not at our best due to the circumstances and the fact that the domestic season has no started yet. However, we need to look forward with a positive mindset.”
Agius said it is too early to assess the qualities of Faroe Islands and the other teams in Goup D1 as all have made changes in recent months.
“This match against the Faroe Islands and the group we are in – I would say it is a big question mark,’ Agius said. “From our side, as a team, many things have changed and the same goes for Faroe Islands who have changed the coach and also some players. Going forward, we will be able to study the other teams and assess their qualities better.”
On the prospect of Malta improving their results on the international scene, Agius said the start of this new technical project by the Malta FA is matched by a collective resolve from the players to move forward.
“When we gathered for the training camp in the beginning of July, the general feeling was that this is a new project with a new coach and we as players will be giving our all to try and gain results,” Agius said.
“We know that this is not easy but we will be doing everything in our power to obtain the results the Maltese public expects from us. I can assure everyone that we as players want the same thing. We want to play not just for the sake of playing but strive to gain positivie results and points for our country.”