Malta coach Ray Farrugia says that the national team has a huge opportunity to end their winning drought in international competition when they take on Faroes Islands in their final UEFA Nations League match at the National Stadium tonight (kick-off: 20.45).
The national team goes into tonight’s match under a huge bout of pressure as Saturday’s 5-0 debacle has left them still without a win after five matches and face a must-win scenario against the Faroes to avoid finishing bottom of League D3.
In the last few days, the national team received a huge dose of criticism from both the media and the fans. But the Malta coach insisted that the whole squad has tried to put behind them the match against Kosovo and are focused on finishing the campaign on a positive note.
“I am really looking forward to the game against the Faroes Islands,” Farrugia told a news conference yesterday.
“It will not be an easy game as the Faroes Islands have improved a lot over the years and are ranked in the top 100 in the FIFA list. But I have a lot of confidence in my players and there is a great desire in the players to make amend for Saturday’s disappointing result against Kosovo.
“Personally, I will only be happy if we beat the Faroes Islands. Throughout this campaign the team has put in some good performances even though there were times when the results where not as we would have like them.
“Our national team has struggled to win competitive matches over the years, in fact we have only five wins so far. I just hope that the players will rise to the occasion and we can get our sixth win against the Faroes Islands.”
Farrugia admitted that in the last few days he faced a tough job to boost the players’ spirits after the heavy defeat to Kosovo.
“My biggest job in the last few days was to lift the spirits of the players who were hurt and disappointed by their performance against Kosovo,” Farrugia said.
“Today, I had a very good and honest chat with the players and I was very pleased with their reaction. I know the majority of the players inside out from my time as Malta U-21 coach and there is a great chemistry between us.
“To concede five goals in a match is not nice but it happens in football. Belgium suffered that fate on Sunday against Switzerland… so it’s just a question of how you react today.
“One has to keep in mind that we are trying to build a new team and we are bringing in a lot of young players but we need time. I still feel that there are a lot of positives to take so far from all the work we have put in.
“I’m sure that the players will go out with a lot of hunger to make amends against the Faroe Islands and hopefully we can give the Matlese fans that they are expecting from us.”
Farrugia is boosted by the return from suspension of key defenders Andrei Agius and Steve Borg who are set to walk straight into the starting formation at the expense of Jonathan Caruana and Zach Muscat. Juan Corbalan and Joseph Mbong are set to remain in the starting formation.
Rowen Muscat is expected to be partnered by Paul Fenech in midfield with Roderick Briffa set to drop to the bench.
Upfront, Michael Mifsud is set to replace Luke Gambin who returned to his club Crawley Town ahead of tonight’s FA Cup replay against Southend United.
The Birkirkara striker will partner Andre Schembri who is set to make his 94th and final appearance with the national team after announcing his international retirement after tonight’s match.
In the aftermath of the Kosovo match, coach Farrugia was heavyily criticised for his decision to rope in two forwards, Mifsud and Effiong for Rowen Muscat and Corbalan, as it was deemed that it contributed to the team’s downfall.
But Rowen Muscat came to his coach’s defence.
“A lot has been said on our performance against Kosovo,” Muscat said.
“Personally, I felt that for the first hour our performance was very positive and then the coach took the decision to replace me and Juan and bring in two forwards as he felt the need of a target man.
“I think it was the right decision but unfortunately we conceded a second goal from another defensive mistakes and from then on the team mentally collapsed.
“But that is in the past and we are raring to go. It’s good that the match against the Faroe Islands came just two days from the game against Kosovo and hopefully we can transform our disappointment into a positive energy to end the campaign with the best possible result.”
30.04.97 Malta vs Faroe Islands 1-2
08.06.97 Faroe Islands vs Malta 2-1
18.08.04 Faroe Islands vs Malta 3-2
19.11.13 Malta vs Faroe Islands 3-2
07.09.18 Faroe Islands vs Malta 3-1
Malta starting formation: (probable) A. Hogg, S. Borg, J. Zerafa, J. Mbong, A. Agius, J. Corbalan, R. Camilleri, R. Muscat, P. Fenech, M. Mifsud, A. Schembri.
Referee: Vitali Meshkov (Russia).
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