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Watch: Malta coach Mangia unhappy with players’ physical condition ahead of Azerbaijan test

Malta national teams head coach Devis Mangia speaks with Andrei Agius.

Malta coach Devis Mangia could not hide his concern on his team’s physical condition ahead of their international friendly against Azerbaijan at the National Stadium on Friday evening (kick-off: 7pm).

The national team will be back in action for the first time since they wrapped up their World Cup qualifying campaign with two heavy home defeats to Croatia (1-7) and Slovakia (0-6) and there are high hopes in the Maltese camp to reignite the feel-good-factor around the team with a sprightly performance against the Azeris.

However, one could note the disappointment on the face of Mangia when quizzed about the team’s condition ahead of today’s match.

“I have to be sincere and say that I am disappointed with the physical condition of the national team players that ply their trade in Malta,” Mangia said.

“To be honest I thought that in this part of the season, these players would be in much better shape.

“We have put the players through a number of tests and the parameters that came out showed a huge difference between the locally-based players and those who play abroad. The difference is not only from a physical point but also in terms of nutrition.

“We are trying to give some kind remedy to the situation and hopefully the team will be up to the task from a physical aspect.”

Friday’s match will mark the end of the international career of Andrei Agius who wil pick up his 103rd and final cap against the Azeri.

Mangia said that it is not a secret that the Hibernians defender has been one of the shining lights for Maltese football in recent years and his contribution to the game here has been immense.

“I may not be the best person to speak on Andrei Agius since there have been other Malta coaches who spent more time with him but from the time I have been here I have no doubt that he gave a huge contribution to Maltese football in general,” Mangia said.

“He had a great international career with his country and although he will no longer form part of the national team set-up I am sure that he will continue to give a valid contribution to the football movement here as a player and may be even as a coach if it’s that what he will opt for when he retires.”

Turning his sights on Azerbaijan, Mangia said that he expects a very difficult challenge.

“Azerbaijan may have come here with several new players but if you look at the list there are players who have a lot of experience in UEFA club competitions as their clubs consistently reach the group states of the Europa League or the UEFA Conference League,” Mangia said.

“Playing six to ten matches in Europe can help players to make a leap forward in their career and gain much-needed intensity so no doubt we have a tough task on our hands.”

Also present for yesterday’s press conference was Matthew Guillaumier who is currently on the books of AC Siena, on loan from Ħamrun Spartans.

Asked to give his views on his experience so far, Guillaumier said: “It has been a very positive spell so far. The set-up at the club is quite impressive with players having two or three physiotherapists as well as all the facilities needed for the players to work hard both with the team and individually as they seek to continue to improve.

“What stood out for me so far has been unsurprisingly the fact of how much importance Italian football gives to tactics while the intensity of matches is far higher than here.

“No doubt, I’m trying to learn as much as possible as I believe that this experience will help me to develop immensely as a player.”

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