The Malta national team is set to cross swords with Cyprus in what will be one of Devis Mangia’s most important matches since taking over as coach in 2019 (Kick-off: 18.00).
The Maltese side is currently level on four points with Cyprus in Group H of the 2022 World Cup qualifications.
With three games left in this campaign, Mangia’s team is looking to avoid from finishing last in Group H for the first time since the 1994 World Cup qualifiers, highlighting the importance of the game against Cyprus which will be played in Larnaca.
“We must have the right attitude while giving more than our 100% if we want to record a positive result against Cyprus,” Mangia said in a pre-match press conference.
“Our target is to stage a solid display and afterwards we hope that it pays dividends and helps us reach our target in this fixture.”
Malta is at the back of a 4-0 defeat to Slovenia on home soil which resulted in Mangia’s biggest loss at the helm of the national team.
Nonetheless, Mangia wants to stick to the positive mentality that he brought into this team as he considers the Slovenia game an isolated episode in the midst of all the positive things they managed to do in such a short spell of time.
In fact, under the guidance of the former Italy U-21 coach, Malta finished second in the Nations League group, managing to record two wins against Latvia and Andorra and three draws including against group winners Faroe Islands.
In addition, Malta managed to produce strong displays in this qualifying group even against the likes of Croatia and Russia where the national team was lauded by its opponents.
“It feels that we are focusing a lot on what happened against Slovenia and putting aside all the positive things we have managed to do together recently,” Mangia said.
“If we do an in-depth analysis, we see that we had a good Nations League, and that we produced important performances in this qualification group.”
Mangia could steer the national team towards another record since Malta is one point shy from the record five-point tally that coach Dusan Fitzel had managed to register during the Euro 2008 qualifiers.
Asked about the atmosphere in the team, Mangia explained that when the players are disappointed and upset after a game like Friday’s, that is an encouraging sign at it means the players themselves know they are better than this.
“Everyone wants to win, of course and you cannot not feel any pressure before an international game,” Mangia underlined.
“It is good pressure because it keeps you motivated, and I am sure that the players will produced a commanding display on Monday.”
Mangia also pointed out that having the players an extra week during the international window helps him to prepare well.
“The fact that we have few Maltese players featuring abroad, that allows us to work with our players for a longer time,” he said.
“On the other side, if we start to export more players that means that we either stop doing this camp because the number of available players will be smaller or else we open this camp for other players at the same time.”
However, Mangia is wary about Cyprus as he knows that for them, it is equally important to win this game.
“I am expecting a tough game against Cyprus because they did not expect to lose 3-0 against us and they will want to show that they are better than that,” Mangia pointed out.
For this Cyprus game, Mangia called up 24 players but he is yet to take a final decision on the starting formation as he wants to check out on the fatigue level of his players before tonight’s clash.
Joseph Mbong and Alexander Satariano will be missing due to suspension but Mangia will welcome back wingback Ryan Camenzuli, one of Malta’s key players since the Italian tactician took over the helm of the national team.
“There is a positive atmosphere in the team right now and that means that if we stick together, we can produce a strong performance and get a positive result in Cyprus,” Camenzuli said.
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