Malta Football Association
Stern challenge awaits Malta but Mangia strikes upbeat note
Mar 23, 2021
Posted in:
National Team
PHOTOS: Domenic Aquilina/MFA
PHOTOS: Domenic Aquilina/MFA

  • PHOTOS: Domenic Aquilina/MFA
  • PHOTOS: Domenic Aquilina/MFA
  • PHOTOS: Domenic Aquilina/MFA
  • PHOTOS: Domenic Aquilina/MFA

Malta coach Devis Mangia is fully aware of the difficulty of the task awaiting his team in tomorrow’s opening 2022 World Cup qualifier against Russia at the National Stadium (behind closed doors) but his message to the players was loud and clear – be positive and show personality to play our game.

Mangia and defender Steve Borg this afternoon addressed the pre-match press conference ahead of Malta’s first official outing of 2021 with the match against Russia the first of three qualifiers in the space of a week with away games against Slovakia and Croatia to follow. The other teams in Group H are Slovenia and Cyprus.


“We are starting a new competition, it’s a new experience and for us, this will be another opportunity, another step to grow,” Mangia said. “We will try to do our best on the pitch.”


The Malta coach knows that, given Russia’s strength, his team are unlikely to enjoy the same amount of possession as in the UEFA Nations League matches, that saw the national team finish second in Group D1. However, he stressed the importance of using possession effectively.


“With possession alone, you don’t win games,” Mangia, who has steered Malta to seven positive results on the trot, said. “Using possession to create space and finalise attacks is another thing.


“It might be more difficult for us to have the same level of control in tomorrow’s game (against Russia) compared to the other games (in the UEFA Nations League) but what I want is that when we have the ball, we must try to be protagonists.


“I can’t say how many times we will have the ball... perhaps they will be better than us and they will oblige us to stay close to our penalty box but I repeat that, when we have the ball, we must make the most of it and not just have the ball to kick it away and wait for them to come back and attack us.


“I’m very curious to see how we, collectively and as a team, will be able to manage these kind of games.


“What do I ask of my players? It’s normal that the match will be defined by moments but when we have our moments, we must be ready to play our idea of football. After, if we have to suffer, if we have to defend, we must work on that, but what I want is that when we have the ball, we must show the personality to create something.”


Mangia has a 30-man squad at his disposal for the opening Group H match and all the players are fit. The build-up has not been easy due the COVID-19 measures and restrictions which have significantly limited the level of interaction between the members of the squad. Mangia said: “If one is familiar with team sport, they would know that these things have an effect. Nevertheless, we have to look foward and focus on managing what we can manage and not on what we can’t. We have to think only about the game and not about these things.”




Steve Borg described the European Qualifiers as a step-up from the UEFA Nations League but the G┼╝ira United defender expressed confidence that Malta will maintain the progress shown last autumn.


“We know that this is a step-up from the UEFA Nations League,” Borg said.


“I hope we continue on this journey we started a year ago and hopefully we will achieve more positive results and great performances.”

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