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Watch: Mangia hopes Malta players show more lucidity against Kosovo

Andrei Agius is set to pick up his 100th appearance for Malta against Kosovo. Photo: Stephen Gatt

Devis Mangia is hopeful his players will cut out silly errors as the national team look to end their training camp in Austria on a high when they take on Kosovo in an international friendly in Klagenfurt on Friday evening (kick-off: 18.00).

The national team had four days to recover from Sunday’s disappointing 3-0 defeat to Northern Ireland and although it is unlikely to see much progress in terms of physical condition, however, the Italian coach is hopeful the players will show more lucidity on the pitch as they look to put up a much stronger performance against Kosovo.

Video: Stephen Gatt

“The team has continued to train well in the last four days, with good attitude and application,” Mangia said.

“But the underlying problem with our physical condition remains there and I think I have said more than enough about it. We are aware that in Kosovo we are facing a very tough opponent, but I firmly believe that we have the qualities to cause them a problem.

“After the game against Northern Ireland we made our own evaluation of the team performance and it’s clear that the defeat was not just because of our physical condition but also due to a number of errors we committed.

“As a coach, I don’t like to focus too much on the technical mistakes, as these are things that can happen. But it’s clear that one area that we need to improve from the match against Northern Ireland is our movement when we don’t have the ball.

“Everything in the end comes from the fatigue being felt by the players who in key moments are not lucid enough and may be their reaction to a particular situation is too slow.

“But hopefully things will be better against Kosovo.”

Asked what he prefers to take from the match against Kosovo, a good result or a good performance, the Italian said: “No doubt a good performance. And that is because if you play well there is a big chance that a good result will follow.”

Kosovo may not have been in the European scene for many years, but the country boast several players who ply their trade in top leagues in Europe, such as the Italian Serie A and the English Premier League.

Mangia said that he hopes that Malta will follow Kosovo’s example by exporting more players in the near future.

“It’s clear that having more Maltese players developing and earn contracts abroad is one of the goals of our technical project,” Mangia said.

“But at the end of the day, it is up to the players to show that they have what it takes to secure a move abroad. The talent is there, it’s up to them to prove it with every game they play.”

The Malta coach said that he will again be without defender Enrico Pepe and midfielder Steve Pisani who are not yet fully fit.

Mangia said that the postponement of Monday’s friendly against Kazakhstan will inevitably mean that he will not be able to see some new players in action on the pitch during the camp.

Few changes

In fact, for the match against Kosovo the Malta coach will stick with the chore of the players that faced Northern Ireland and is likely to make only two or three changes.

One player who is expected to retain his place in the team is defender Andrei Agius who is set to reach a landmark 100th appearance today.

Agius will become the seventh Maltese player to reach this milestone, with the other being Michael Mifsud (143), David Carabott (121), Gilbert Agius (120), Carmel Busuttil (112), Joe Brincat (103), Roderick Briffa (100).

The Hibernians defender said that it’s a great honour for him to be able to collect a century of appearances with the national team.

“I feel very honoured and grateful for such a milestone,” Agius said.

“Every player who wears the national team jersey always sets a number of milestones and this is something I have worked really hard for.

“I know how many sacrifices I did and how hard I worked for it but I would not have arrived so far without the support of the national coaches that mentored me for all these years.

“But tomorrow’s friendly is not my match but it’s Malta vs Kosovo and my main goal is to help my country get a good result.”

Agius admitted that Kosovo’s style of play, focused on slick passing football, might pose more problems due to the team’s physical condition.

“Kosovo’s style of play could be a tough challenge for us,” the Hibernians defender said.

“We have a good knowledge of the qualities they have after we faced them twice in the UEFA Nations League. They are a team who are very skilful and who focus their game on possession football so that means that we will have to spend much more energy when we are not in possession.

“But I hope that after the match against Northern Ireland we can pick up our rhythm and we show good signs of improvement from a physical aspect so we can offer them a stern challenge.” 

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