Malta coach Ghedin names 23-man squad
Malta coach Pietro Ghedin has named a 23-strong squad for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Group F qualifier against Slovakia, to be played on March 26 at the National Stadium (kick-off 20.45). Ghedin's first selection for 2017 contains some significant changes from his last squads for the home qualifier against Slovenia (0-1) and the friendly defeat to Iceland (0-2) in November.
“I believe that we’ve selected the players who are in the best form,” Ghedin told www.mfa.com.mt.
“The objective is to improve all the time.
“Players who harbour ambition to represent their country must give more, especially when playing for their clubs.
“This squad represents my technical choice after assessing the form of the players in the majority of the BOV Premier League and FA Trophy games over the past months.”
Experienced midfielder Ryan Fenech has been rewarded for his influential performances for BOV Premier League leaders Balzan with a recall to the Malta squad.
Fenech, 30, is back in the national team's frame after an absence of two years due to injury.
There is also a return for a host of players who have not featured in recent squads with flank defender Jacob Borg also forcing his way back into Ghedin's plans after playing a prominent role in in Gżira United's revival of late.
Defender Clifford Gatt Baldacchino, also of Gżira United, has also earned a recall while the likes of Ryan Camenzuli (Floriana FC), Luke Montebello (Valletta FC) and Samir Arab (Balzan FC), all key members of the Malta U-21 side that collected 11 points in the last UEFA U-21 qualifiers, are also on the provisional list.
Floriana’s Jurgen Pisani has also been named in the provisional squad. Pisan, Arab and Montebello are the only uncapped players on Ghedin’s 23-man list.
Ghedin added: “Those players who have missed out can easily get back into the squad for future games… it depends on them.
“We have also been monitoring Under-21 players who were also in contention to make the senior squad but our decision was to leave them with the U-21s for this month’s friendly against Luxembourg and the qualifying match against Belgium so they gain more international experience.”
Rowen Muscat is on the initial list but Ghedin is expected to make a final decision on the Valletta midfielder’s availability after the weekend games as the 25-year-old is currently recovering from a minor injury.
Captain Michael Mifsud, who set a new record after making his 123rd Malta appearance in the 2-0 defeat to Iceland, has also been shortlisted after the Valletta FC striker made his comeback from a back injury earlier this month.
Ghedin has also awarded a recall to Sliema Wanderers midfielder Mark Scerri who is joined by club-mate Jean Paul Farrugia. The latter had a brief spell in Slovakian football with Spartak Trnava a few years back.
Four of the 23 players in the group are foreign-based, namely Andrè Schembri, who plays for Portuguese club Boavista, Luke Gambin, who is on the books of English League Two club Luton Town, Sam Magri, of Dover Athletic, and Zach Muscat of Italian Lega Pro side Arezzo.
Malta will be looking to gain their first point in Group F when they meet Slovakia after losing their opening four qualifiers.
PROVISIONAL MALTA SQUAD
Goalkeepers: Andrew Hogg (Hibernians); Henry Bonello (Birkirkara).
Defenders: Jacob Borg, Clifford Gatt Baldacchino (both Gżira United); Zach Muscat (Arezzo); Sam Magri (Dover Athletic); Jurgen Pisani, Ryan Camenzuli (both Floriana); Ryan Camilleri (Valletta); Samir Arab (Balzan); Joseph Zerafa (Birkirkara).
Midfielders: Gareth Sciberras (Birkirkara); Rowen Muscat (Valletta); Bjorn Kristensen (Hibernians); Steve Pisani (Floriana); Luke Gambin (Luton Town); Paul Fenech, Ryan Fenech (both Balzan); Mark Scerri (Sliema Wanderers).
Forwards: Michael Mifsud (Valletta); Andrè Schembri (Boavista); Jean Paul Farrugia (Sliema Wanderers); Luke Montebello (Valletta).