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Watch: Malta coach Mangia focused on long term future of national team

Malta national teams' head coach Devis Mangia. Photo: Domenic Aquilina

Devis Mangia said that his main focus remained on building a bright future as the national team prepares for this month’s friendlies against Azerbaijan and Kuwait at the National Stadium.

The Malta national teams’ head coach has named a 29-man squad for the upcoming matches which will see veteran defender Andrei Agius play his final game for Malta against Azerbaijan on March 25.

After the Malta FA published the list of players selected, there was criticism towards Mangia for failing to name Sirens goalkeeper Jonathan Debono, 36, in his latest list.

Video: Malta Football Association

But the Italian coach said that his focus has to be on building something for the future and has to give a priority to young talent.

“As I always say, the doors of the national team are open for everyone, but it’s clear that given the project we have embarked on my work has to focus to build something for the future,” Mangia said.

“My long-term goal as national teams head coach is to be able to create a big pool of players. I’m looking at players born in 2004 and 2005 upwards to work with them and try and develop them into future national team players. 

“After every weekend of matches, I receive reports from my technical staff who scout players and we analyse them well. If we see that these youngsters are ready to be part of our sessions, we bring them on. But for me, it wouldn’t make sense to bring players who are 35 or 36-years-old in my group as it goes against what we are aiming for.

“Our work here is to invest into young talent, and we need to push with these players and that is why it’s important that all stakeholders contribute towards this approach.”

The Malta national teams’ head coach has again included Alex Satariano in his group and admitted that he needs to sit down with the former Sliema striker to try and figure out why he is struggling for first-team football at his new club Pergolettese in the Italian Serie C.

“There is no doubt that I need to have a conversation with Alex and understand his point of view on why he is struggling to play regular football in Serie C,” Mangia said.

“I’m a bit confused that when he was at Frosinone they were happy with his work and I thought that at Pergolettese he could have had more regular time.

“We need to discuss to see how he can improve may be technically or physically to help him play a bigger role at the club.

“He is a bright prospect and we need to support him at this difficult time.”

The matches against Azerbaijan and Kuwait will be the first commitments for the national team since their disappointing end to their World Cup qualifying campaign with heavy defeats to Croatia (7-1) and Slovakia.

Asked whether it was time for him to may be effect some tactical tweaks to his team’s playing philosophy, Mangia said that may be the players needed to learn to read certain situations better.

“When one looks at our performances last November, first one has to take into consideration the quality of our opponents who were hellbent on winning both matches as they desperately needed points,” Mangia said.

“The matches against Croatia and Slovakia were completely different as against Croatia, we were 2-1 after 40 minutes and we conceded a third goal from a corner action for us and our balance was off.

“On the other hand, against Slovakia, we didn’t start well and ended up with nine players so the match was as good as over at the start of the second half.

“One has to remember that we came here for a long-term project and this is a process where there are some high and low points and it’s how you react to these phases which is the most important.

“Surely I will not change our playing philosophy, but maybe we need to improve how we read some situations during matches to ensure we maintain our tactical balance and not end up under continuous pressure against superior opponents.”

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