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Faroe Islands seek bright start to new coaching era against Malta

A new era will commence when Faroe Islands host Malta in their 2020/2021 UEFA Nations League opener tonight, in Torshavn.

In fact, the Nordic side will be playing their first competitive match under the new guidance of coach Hakan Ericson. The Swedish coach replaced highly-acclaimed Lars Olsen who left after eight years in charge.

Eight years which ended on a disappointing note for the Faroe Islands side as the three points chalked up in the recent Euro 2020 qualifiers where deemed below their expectations.

Despite not being a football powerhouse, the Faroese national team has been a revelation with Olsen as a coach having also managed to beat Greece twice and reach a record eight-point tally in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers. In 2015, Olsen also guided the Faroe Islands from 187th to 74th in the FIFA rankings.

With Ericson in charge, the Faroe Islands opted for a coach who can continue to build on Olsen’s playing style highlighted by fast-pace counter-attacks and physical players.

In his pre-match press conference Ericson refused to divulge his plans for the match against Malta.

“No! I am not going to do Malta any favours here. However, we will build our game on principles. Principles on how we defend and on how we attack,” Ericson said.

Ericson won’t be able to make use of some key players including Gilli Rolantsson of SK Brann of Norway, who is serving a coronavirus quarantine and Arminia Bielefeld’s Joan Simun Edmundsson due to an injury.

However, there are huge expectations on 21-year-old Adrian Justinussen who is still uncapped but has been one of the stars in the Faroe Islands league despite missing 12 games due to a fractured leg.

Justinussen has a knack for goals, having scored 8 goals in 5 games for league leaders HB Torshavn and could be the wildcard for coach Ericson in this Nations League.

Faroe Islands were one of the first European countries to resume their football activity following the coronavirus lockdown, back in May.

Most of the Faroe Islands players are based in their native country, meaning that they are in an advanced stage of match fitness with 17 fixtures already played in the Faroese top-flight whereas the Maltese league was stopped in March and the new campaign is yet to commence.

Between 2018 and 2019, Faroe Islands and Malta faced each other four times with the Nordic side winning twice, including the most recent encounter in Torshavn of last November.

Interestingly, Ericson has already faced Malta but at U-21 level while at the helm of Sweden.

In fact, he was in charge of the Scandinavians in both wins against the Maltese (5-0 and 2-1) en route to the final win over Portugal to secure a famous 2015 U-21 European Championships title for the Swedes.

Faroe Islands and Malta were drawn with Andorra and Latvia in League D – Group 1.

The Nordic side is the highest-ranked team among the four of them – 110th – while Devis Mangia’s team the lowest in 184th. Andorra and Latvia sit in 135th and 137th respectively.

Faroe Islands squad:

Gunnar Nielsen (FH, Iceland); Teitur Matras Gestsson (HB); Tórður Thomsen (NSÍ); Jóannes Kalsø Danielsen (KÍ); Heri Hjalt Mohr (HB); Viljormur Davidsen (Vejle BK, Denmark); Daniel Johansen (HB); Heini Vatnsdal (KÍ); Heðin Hansen (HB); Sonni Ragnar Nattestad (B36); Odmar Færø (KÍ); Jóannes Bjartalíð (KÍ); Meinhard Egilsson Olsen (GAIS (Sweden); Sølvi Vatnhamar (Víkingur); Adrian Justinussen (HB); Brandur Hendriksson Olsen (Helsingborgs, Sweden)l Hallur Hansson (AC Horsens, Denmark); Dan í Soylu (HB); Gunnar Vatnhamar (Víkingur); Andreas Lava Olsen (Víkingur); Klæmint Andrasson Olsen (NSÍ); Patrik Johannesen (KÍ); Jákup B. Andreasen (KÍ).

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