Malta coach Devis Mangia is urging his players to build on their energetic performance against Russia as the national team plays its second match from their World Cup qualifying campaign when they face Slovakia in Trnava tonight (kick-off: 8.45pm).
The national team arrived in Slovakia with renewed confidence following their bright showing against 2018 World Cup finalists Russia, which despite the fact that it resulted in a 3-1 defeat, highlighted the team’s improvement under the management of Mangia, particularly with their drive of playing more offensive football.
Speaking to the media on the eve of the match, Mangia said that he now expects the players to try and make another step forward against Slovakia.
“The game against Russia was a good experience for the team,” the former Italy U-21 coach said.
“As I said, I was pleased with the performance of the players, however, unfortunately we committed some mistakes which I hope the players have learnt from and we will try not to repeat them.
“However, when you are developing a team it’s normal that mistakes happen but the most important thing is how you react to them.
“I think with our performance against Russia we have sent a very good message but now it’s important that we continue to improve.
“Against Russia we had some good moments in the game but now it’s time for the players to try and make a further step against Russia by playing with more personality which I believe is a very important component that we need to have.”
Slovakia come into the match under a bit of pressure after their disappointing goalless draw against Cyprus and are expected to go out on the pitch with further motivation to try and kickstart their campaign with a resounding victory.
Mangia said that Slovakia are a different proposition than Russia and his team would need to be more disciplined from a tactical point of view to keep the Slovakians quiet.
“Slovakia and Russia are two different schools of football,” Mangia said.
“In my opinion, Russia adopt a more direct style of football while Slovakia like to play the game more. I really like their style of football and have some very gifted midfielders so we need to be very cautious.
“They may have failed to score in the last two matches but they are creating a lot of chances so it’s only a matter of time for them to take their chances.
“It’s going to be very important for us to enjoy good possession to try and keep control of the game to try and keep them away from our goal. Now we have one final session and then I will decide whether we will effect any changes from the match against Russia.”
Premier League ban
During the news conference, Mangia was asked for his reaction after earlier yesterday the Superintendent for Health Charmaine Gauci offered little hope that football clubs could return to training before the April 11 deadline.
Mangia was visibly upset when he heard the news.
“I don’t know if I should give my reaction but what I can say is that at the moment Malta is the only country where football has stopped,” he said.
“The national coaches of Croatia, Russia, Slovakia, Cyprus and Slovenia do not have that problem, I am the only one to have it.
“I repeat that I understand the importance to safeguard the health of everyone but as I said, I’m sure that with strict protocols in place football can return.
“If the championship doesn’t start, it will be a big problem for us. To stop for another four months will not be good for us besides that we have already made plans for a training camp in June.”
Also present for the press conference was winger Joseph Mbong.
The Ħamrun Spartans midfielder was among the best players for the national team against Russia when he managed to put his name on the scoresheet with a spectacular strike.
“The match against Russia was a good shot of confidence for us but it’s important that we don’t get carried away as we know that against Slovakia it’s going to be another difficult match,” the Ħamrun Spartans winger said.
“We have been working with the coach for almost a year now and since he came in, he immediately started working with us on this philosophy of football that we are displaying. He has always showed a lot of confidence in our ability and we are doing everything we can to pay him back.
“What is important now is that we continue to push hard to maintain this upward trend.
“We are blessed to have a technical staff that works so hard for us that helps us to recover quickly from matches, which is important when having such a congested fixture schedule, so hopefully against Slovakia we can put on another strong showing.”
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