Malta national teams’ head coach Devis Mangia is hopeful his players can build on their sprightly showing against Azerbaijan when they host Kuwait in an international friendly at the National Stadium this evening (kick-off: 18.00).
The national team head into the match in fine spirits after their convincing performance that resulted in a 1-0 win over Azerbaijan, with Jurgen Degabriele scoring the all-important goal that earned the outfit a perfect start to their 2022 international commitments.
With the UEFA Nations League commitments on the horizon, today’s match against Kuwait is likely to be the national team’s final test before they open their commitments against San Marino next June, and coach Mangia is keen to build on all the positives shown against the Azeris.
“We are coming into this match against Kuwait after a very positive performance against Azerbaijan,” Mangia said.
“There is no hiding that the players did well against Azerbaijan and we created a lot of chances and may be we should have been more clinical in front of goal. But, honestly, the fact that we managed to create a lot of chances was very positive – we just need to be sharper in front of goal.
“Kuwait will be a different test for us. I watched them play against Latvia last week and are a very strong, physical team so it will be important that we play a good game from a technical point of view.”
The Malta coach announced that Scottish-based defender James Brown is unlikely to be fit for today’s match after feeling a recurrence to his injury, meaning that the St Johnstone’s wingback will have to wait a little bit more to make his debut for the national team.
Goalkeeper Jake Galea is out of the equation and has returned for some treatment to his club Balzan and Mangia has now called Pembroke Athleta custodian Matthew Grech in his squad.
On the other hand, Birkirkara attacking midfielder Paul Mbong will not form part of the senior national team as he will play for the Malta Under 21 side who today will be up against Lithuania in a European Championship qualifier at the Centenary Stadium.
Asked on where he thinks his team can further improve against Kuwait today, Mangia said: “There are always areas to improve and if one had to analyse in detail our performance against Azerbaijan, I thought that we needed to keep hold of the ball better.
“Late in the first half there were several instances where we lost possession cheaply and inevitably, we put pressure on ourselves. That is one area where the team has to grow as if we manage to hold the ball well the team can save energy and dictate better the tempo of the game.”
Also present for yesterday’s news conference was Jurgen Degabriele, Malta’s match winner against Azerbaijan.
“I feel that our performance against Azerbaijan was very good,” the Hibernians forward said.
“We created so many chances and no doubt we should have scored more goals. But the performance was very encouraging and hopefully we can maintain that trend against Kuwait.”