The March international window proved very valuable to the Malta national team as they bounced back to winning ways after beating Azerbaijan (1-0) and Kuwait (2-0).
It was the response that the Maltese clan was hoping for having been at the back of two heavy defeats to Croatia and Slovakia.
Following the commanding showing against Azerbaijan, the Maltese players took the ground running again against AFC side Kuwait, ranked 31 places above Malta, and staged another delightful performance to the satisfaction of the Italian tactician.
Both performances resulted in two victories that resonates the Maltese players’ adaptation to Mangia’s philosophy, which has now been in place for the last two and a half years.
“In the 27 months that I have been here, we were not at our best for just one week – against Croatia and Slovakia,” Mangia told a news conference after the game.
“It would have been better for us if we could have produced better performances in those games, but overall we are pleased with what we have been doing so far.
“We are heading in the right direction while we continue to strive to improve our mentality.”
For the Kuwait appointment, coach Mangia opted to start Alexander Satariano again. The former Sliema Wanderers is struggling for playing time in Italian football but has always been a resourceful option for the Italian.
Mangia’s trust was repaid with Satariano putting his name on the scoresheet for the first time since his famous Slovakia goal, one year ago.
The Pergolettese player had an inspiring night, pulling the strings in Malta’s second goal which was Teddy Teuma’s first ever at international level.
These are the type of
benefits that an international window can bring to the Maltese side, with coach Mangia emphasising the fact that his players are providing him with the right feedback to continue their development.
“I am very pleased with how these two games went,” he explained.
“These friendlies have reflected the players’ mentality and belief in what we are trying to produce on the field of play.
“We might have committed more technical mistakes against Kuwait, but we were playing against a side that is more physically-oriented, while we are still not in our best shape too.”
These two wins will boost Malta’s chances of climbing from the 174th place in the FIFA rankings as they are projected to go up at least three places, per football-ranking.
At the end of the day, these two friendlies have geared up Malta’s preparations for the upcoming Nations League commitments that will see the national team face Estonia, who dropped to Group D after losing their play-off against Cyprus, and San Marino.
“We want to do well against San Marino and Estonia,” Mangia underlined.
“For those games, I hope that the players will be in a better physical shape.
“As regarding the players’ selection, I hope that I will have all players available while having some more options from where to choose as well.”
Malta will face San Marino twice and Estonia between June 5 and June 12. Mangia’s side will travel to Estonia on September 23 for their final Nations League game.