Devis Mangia will make his debut as Malta coach this evening when he leads the national team against the Faroe Islands in their opening UEFA Nations League match in Torshavn.
The build-up for Thursday night’s opener has been full of frustration due to the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic which denied the Italian coach the chance of experimenting with his squad as all friendly matches planned had to be scrapped.
Still, Mangia still looked upbeat on the eve of Thursday’s match and said that he hopes that the wave of enthusiasm that exists in his squad will make up for any deficiencies present in the team when they face the Faroes.
“Every player in our squad is ready for the match against the Faroe Islands and we are looking forward to go out and play our game,” Mangia told a news conference yesterday.
“It’s obvious that from a physical point of view our players are firmly behind our opponents. The majority of the Faroe players have 17 league matches under their belt while the maximum my players have played so far is one match.
“However, one aspect that can help us is the huge enthusiasm that exists among our players. If we take this positive attitude on the pitch and show good attitude throughout the 90 minutes, I believe that we can make up for some weak points we presently have in the team.”
Malta’s record against the Faroe Islands in Torshavn is far from positive as the national team has yet to record a win against the hosts away from home.
But Mangia said that today’s match represented a new start for the national team and he expects the team to put their tactical plan into practice irrespective of their opponents.
“I have great respect for what has been achieved in the past,” Mangia said.
“But for me this match is a fresh start. We are here to build something new and obviously we need time and patience so may be results will not come immediately. At the moment, the team performance is more important that the result.
“We are taking the pitch with the sole intent of playing our game. I am not too focused on my opponents. My main concern is on the performance of my players.
“We have a game plan in mind and what I’m interested most is how we
approach the match throughout the 90 minutes.”
The Malta coach said that he has no concerns to name his starting formation although he hinted that debutant Teddy Teuma looks likely that will start on the bench as the French-born midfielder had only one training session with the team and is likely to be spared for Sunday’s match against Latvia at Ta’ Qali.
It’s important that we develop as a team as much as we can and then once this campaign is over, we can draw a better picture of our objectives for the future
Asked on whether he set up any objectives for his national team in this year’s Nations League, Mangia said that this team should not set any limits on what it can achieve.
“I firmly believe that this team can achieve anything, so I don’t think it’s good that we set any targets,” he said.
“Our approach should be to take one match at a time and try to gradually grow as a team.
“It’s important that we develop as a team as much as we can and then once this campaign is over, we can draw a better picture of our objectives for the future.”
On his part, Andre Agius, the Malta skipper, said that all the team is approaching the match with a positive frame of mind and said that they are in Torshavn to start the campaign with a positive start.
“Every international match is a tough task for us, irrespective of who we are playing,” the Hibernians midfielder said.
“We worked hard in training in recent weeks and the goal is to try and apply all that we worked on in tomorrow’s match against the Faroe Islands.
“There is great belief in the team that we can achieve a positive result and I can assure everyone that we will give our all to return home with some points in the bag.
“Being one of the most experienced players in the squad fills me with great pride and at the same time with a lot of responsibility as I know that many of the young players in the squad look up to me.
“I know that as one of the leaders in this team I must use all the experience I gained throughout the years to guide them in difficult times and help them to learn from any mistakes the team commits in key moments.”