The tactical revolution that Italian tactician Devis Mangia has brought with him into the Malta national team is already paying dividends with much-improved performances from past years resulting in positive results in the process.
However, this transition comes at a cost as once again another mistake at the back has condemned Malta to the umpteenth defeat following the 3-0 loss to Northern Ireland.
While against the Northern Irish, it was the opening goal that came from a mistake, against Kosovo it was a late error that handed our opponents the win.
The build-up from the back, which often includes the goalkeeper showcasing his footwork, has become the norm in modern football.
For Mangia, it may have been easy to have the pool of his Maltese players buy into his ideas but transferring them onto the pitch is another thing.
In recent years, we have been accustomed to see the Maltese side feature in a formation which had a lot of players congest the defensive and central area and a sole forward upfront, with the hopes of a nation clinging on his shoulders.
What about the build-up? It was often route one football towards the target man, either into deep space or an attempt to play some lay-offs with a nearby companion.
Things have changed and the Maltese side has upgraded its technical repertoire, with slick passing, confident attitude and aggressiveness to attack.
Yet, there are still those mistakes that often deny Malta from obtaining a positive result as was the case against Kosovo.
Nonetheless, Mangia is not fazed by these mistakes as in his idea, this reflects the courage that these players have in trying to implement a new style of football.
Mangia pointed out that the second goal – conceded six minutes from time – was an example of where his players could have taken another decision at that point of the game.
“If we do errors, we want to try again because we don’t want to destroy what we have built so far,” Mangia told a news conference after the game.
“Now it’s time to make the players aware of what are the solutions in such situations of the game and we want to help them have this mentality, to recognise what’s the best decision.
“Obviously, we cannot know what the opponent is thinking or what he will do, so the players have to have various answers in their mind to be able to respond to their opponent.”
Overall, the former Italy U-21 coach was happy with the performance that the players put up, in particular because there was an evident growth from their last outing.
“Against Northern Ireland we were reactive whereas against Kosovo we were more assertive in trying to give a direction to this game,” Mangia explained.
“The attitude of the players was good and I am even more happy with players who were playing their first or second game with me.”
Obviously, Mangia would have preferred to play against Kazakhstan as well in order to give playing time to more players which he called up.
“The cancelled game changed our plans because I would have preferred to use more players in this training camp,” the Italian coach said.
“Now I hope that the players will continue to work so that I find them fit come August.”
Asked about his criticism in regards to the football situation in Malta, Mangia said that it is better to ask for suggestion from someone who decided about cancelling football in Malta rather than him.
“When it comes to the players’ fitness, I hope that the Maltese clubs in Europe will advance more than one round while the others continue with their pre-season and at the same time, we would have already played two league matchdays before the upcoming World Cup qualifier… or at least I hope,” Mangia said.
“I am a football person so I would not mind give my opinion and express my thoughts if someone wants to discuss this situation with me.
“Look at other countries, like Latvia, Andorra and the Faroe Islands – they all started and finished their championship.”