National team needs to win by two-goal margin to secure promotion
The stage is set for the Malta national team who will play arguably their most important match in their recent history when they face Estonia in a Group D decider from the UEFA Nations League at the Le Coq Arena on Friday evening, (kick-off: 6pm, Malta time).
Estonia are currently on pole to take top spot in League D as the home side are currently leading the standings on six points, level with Malta, but the Estonians hold the edge as they not only have a game in hand, but they also have a superior head-to-head record over the Maltese after their last-gasp 2-1 win at the National Stadium last June.
Such scenario has left Devis Mangia’s troops with a huge task on their hands to secure top spot in the group and an historic promotion to League C. This is because Malta must beat the hosts by a two-goal margin to assure themselves of finishing top of the group, irrespective to what Estonia will do against San Marino in their final group match on Monday.
Mangia told a news conference that he is aware of the difficult task awaiting his team and the only thing he wants to see from his players is that they try and produce their best possible performance and see how things will pan out.
“I am very pleased with the team’s preparation for this match,” Mangia said.
“We warmed up for this match in the best possible manner and my hope is that we start the match in the best way possible.
“We are aware that Estonia are clearly the favourites to win the match, particularly, after the result of the first match in Malta where they won 2-1 and boasting a much higher ranking than us.
“What I want from my team is that we try and repeat the good things we did in the first match in June and hopefully we do not repeat the technical mistakes we committed in the final part of that match.”
Mangia said that his team was in a much better physical condition than the first match in June and is hopeful that will help the team to be able to conduct the match in how they want.
“I have no doubt that this is going to be a very good game between two teams who are vying for promotion,” Mangia said.
“There is no doubt that we are in a much better physical condition than when we faced Estonia in June. Having said that, I don’t know the condition of the Estonian team but I assume that they too will be in a better shape than the first match in June as they are in the final part of their season.
“But I prefer to focus on my team and given that my players look much healthier it will help to put the game in the way we want to play the game.
“As I always say, if we want to reach our goal against Estonia we need to play our game.”
On his part, midfielder Matthew Guillaumier, who was one of the protagonists for his club Ħamrun Spartans in their strong run in the UEFA Conference League where they came just short of reaching the group stages of the club competition, said that the European experience has surely been a huge boost for the players who played a part.
“This summer’s UEFA Conference League matches was a good experience for us players,” Guillaumier, scorer of three goals for Ħamrun Spartans in their historic run in the competition, said.
“Those matches were of great benefit for us as not only we played eight competitive matches to gain better physical condition but we also faced stronger opponents week in and week out.
“Our European run was a huge boost for us also as it injected a lot of self-confidence in us as we now have the belief that we are capable of competing against foreign teams.
“This, inevitably, is very important when you are stepping up your preparations for a crucial encounter against Estonia as we’re confident that we can play our game and get the result everyone is hoping for.”
Mangia has almost a full squad available for today’s match with the only absentee being Floriana wingback Agam Magri Overend who failed to make the trip to Tallinn due to injury.
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UEFA NATIONS LEAGUE
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