Malta national teams head coach Devis Mangia has played down suggestions that tonight’s UEFA Nations League clash against Estonia could prove decisive in the race for promotion to League C and has urged his players to just focus on their game and try and get the best possible result.
The national team arrive for today’s match against Estonia in high spirits after second-half goals from Jan Busuttil and Matthew Guillaumier handed the team a 2-0 win in San Marino.
That result left both Malta and Estonia with an identical record of one win from one match and two goals scored and none conceded and there has been increasing talk in the media of the importance of today’s match with many suggesting that whoever prevails will have made a giant step towards promotion.
However, Mangia has quickly played down such talk.
“We are expecting a very difficult game against a team who are ranked higher than us in the FIFA rankings,” Mangia said.
“I can assure you that we are going onto the pitch with one main goal in our mind… to play our game. It will be important as always for the players to read well the match, play our style of football and make sure to make the most of key moments of the game.
“Obviously the win against San Marino instilled a good dose of confidence in my players and at the end of the day there is nothing separating us from Estonia as we have exactly the same record. The only difference was that they played at 6pm in Estonia while we played at 3pm in San Marino so whoever took the decisions on the two matches’ kick-off times has something to think about.
“I firmly believe that Thursday’s match against Estonia
will not change much in the race for promotion. I am sure that all will be decided in our final match in Tallinn next September.”
Mangia said that he is expecting a strong physical challenge from Estonia who on paper are in a much better physical condition as they are midway through their football season.
“Estonia are a very physical team and who boast a much better physical condition as they are in a completely different situation with their season,” Mangia said.
“While our season finished in April, Estonia are in the middle of the season so for sure they have a better condition. But that should not change our priorities which is to make sure that we try and play our football like usual and then we will see what happens.”
On his part, national team captain Steve Borg said that this will be a difficult game not only for Malta but also for
Estonia and the Maltese players will give more than their 100 per cent on the pitch to win the game.
“We are really looking forward to this game,” the Ħamrun Spartans defender said.
“This is a national team on which all the players in the squad have equal importance, irrespective of how old you are, and our major strength is the collectivity of the group.
“This is a group that wants to win every game – not ‘has’ to win every game – and that change in mindset surely has helped us as a team. We spoke a lot on the importance of the game and I can assure you that we will leave no stone unturned to try and get the result everyone is hoping for.”
On his part, Estonia coach Thomas Haberli said that he is expecting a very tight match against a Maltese team who, in his opinion, have improved a lot in the last few years.
“I have been quite impressed by what I saw from Malta,” Haberli said.
“They are a very tough opponent who like us try to play good football and have a similar style to what we want to do.
“It’s not going to be easy for us for sure but hopefully we can do a good job.
“Having just four matches in this group to decide promotion, it’s vital that we pick up points from every match as one defeat could be fatal. But at the end of the day that everything will be decided in the final clash between the two sides in Tallinn in September.”