Malta coach hints he might make some changes to starting XI against Latvia
Devis Mangia has made it clear that Malta will not change its approach of playing positive football when the national team takes on Latvia in their second UEFA Nations League match at the National Stadium tonight (kick-off: 8.45pm).
On Thursday, the national team suffered a heart-breaking defeat to the Faroe Islands in Torshavn as two goals in the last four minutes condemned the team to a 3-2 upset.
This evening, the team faces another tough test when they take on a Latvian side who are seen by many as the strongest team in League D Group 1.
However, the former Russian Republic too failed to sparkle in their opening fixture after only managing a goalless home draw against Andorra.
The Malta coach admitted that Latvia are expected to offer an even stronger challenge than the Faroe Islands but that doesn’t mean that the Maltese players should change their philosophy of trying to play offensive football.
“We are coming into this match on the back of a good performance against the Faroe Islands which, however, was not enough to get us any points and we ended up with a disappointing defeat,” the Italian coach said.
“Latvia, in my opinion, are very strong from a physical point of view like the Faroes but added to that they have some good technical players who can cause us a lot of problems. They have also changed their coach who has tweaked their playing philosophy.
“Despite Latvia’s pedigree, we are not planning to change our approach. I want my players to continue where they left off against the Faroe Islands and try and play good positive football and we’ll see what happens.
“While against the Faroes I was focused on the performance, this time I expect more and I want the team to get a result which would be very important.”
The Malta coach said that he has no selection problems, but he did not exclude the possibility of making some changes to the starting formation.
“Playing two matches in the space of 72 hours is very difficult, particularly for us who have players who didn’t play any friendlies or competitive matches,” Mangia said.
“I will see their condition during the last training session and then decide. However, what I can say is that UEFA’s decision not to increase the number of allotted substitutions from three to five is a poor decision particularly when you have countries like us who didn’t play a lot of football in the last months.”
Given the nature of how the defeat came in Torshavn, it was no surprise that Mangia admitted that the players were hit hard emotionally after putting up a very good display.
The Italian, however, said that he is curious to see how the team will react today against Latvia.
“It’s no secret that after the match the morale of the team was at a low ebb, particularly after conceding two goals in the dying moments,” Mangia said.
“For me it will be interesting to see how the players will react against Latvia. To lose the game was a disappointment but I expect a response from the players.
“We cannot be happy with only a good performance we need to have results to show and against Latvia we are going out to try and play our best football and pick our first points in the group. It’s not going to be easy but we have to try.”
On his part, Matthew Guillaumier, one of Malta’s best performers against the Faroes, said that losing in Torshavn was hard to fathom but they must use that match as a good learning experience.
“Losing in that manner against the Faroe Islands was difficult to accept,” the Birkirkara midfielder said.
“But being a young group, matches like the one in the Faroe Islands are a good learning experience for us and hopefully we can mature from such setbacks.
“When we found) ourselves a goal behind against the Faroes we felt that we had nothing to lose and started to play attacking football and create chances.
“It’s important to carry that spirit against Latvia and hopefully we will have something to show come Sunday night.”