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Mangia set to ring the changes as Malta face Israel in friendly international

Malta winger Codi Jones tries to launch an attack against Estonia. Photo: Domenic Aquilina

The Malta national team is set to feature a number of fringe players in Tuesday night’s friendly international against Israel at the National Stadium (kick-off: 9pm).

Malta is coming into the match on the back of a disappointing 2-1 defeat against Estonia in Tallinn which saw them miss out on an historic promotion to Group C in the UEFA Nations League.

Inevitably, that defeat has brought with it an air of disappointment in the Malta FA clan and Mangia had made it clear in his after-match comments that he was keen to give more playing time to those players who have been on the fringes of his team.

The build-up to the match was further hampered by the news on Tuesday morning that the Malta Football Association had decided to relieve Devis Mangia of his duties for alleged breach in policies and the team would be led by assistant coach Davide Mazzotta.

On Monday, the Italian spoke during the pre-match press-conference and had reiterated his plans to ring the changes to his team.

“Definitely, we will make some changes,” Mangia said.

“The reason for this is clear. I want to see other players who may be did not have a lot of opportunities to play with us and will give them the chance to show that they deserve to stake a claim for a place in the starting XI.

“As I said it’s important to provide an opportunity to gain experience playing at international level to ensure we prepare a good team for European Championships qualifiers.

“At the moment, I am not looking beyond the Euro 2024 qualifiers as my contract expires in December 2023 and it’s out of my hands if my contract will be renewed or not.

“If you ask me how many, I still have to decide after after our final training session as I have to see the condition of

all the players. What is sure is that Zach Muscat will not be available as he felt something during training on Sunday, but the other 24 players are available.”

Israel are set to be very tough opponents for Mangia’s team as they are coming from a very strong performance in the UEFA Nations League which has seen them earn promotion to League A after topping their group.

“It’s going to be a very difficult match for us against a team who are fresh from winning promotion to League A in the Nations League,” Mangia said.

“To be honest, I would have preferred to play this friendly not at home but we will adapt to the situation.

“Against Estonia we changed a bit our playing system as we fielded a four-man defence instead of the usual three. The reason I took that decision was to try and put more pressure on Estonia high up the pitch.

“Looking back at the match, we did quite well and to be honest we conceded big chances due to two technical mistakes committed in transition situations, and one of which came the penalty from which Estonia took the lead.

“Besides this, we made some changes when out of possession to try and cover the ball high up the pitch but it’s clear that we need to improve and that is what we are planning to do.

“Against Israel we will choose the system that can give us the possibility to enjoy more possession and try and put pressure on our opponents but you will have to wait until the match to see how we will play.

Also present for the press conference was winger Joseph Mbong who is currently plying his trade in Israel with Ironi Kiryat Shmoni, on loan from Ħamrun Spartans.

The Malta wing back said that he is expecting the Israeli side to provide a very stiff test with their high-intensity and direct game.

“In Israel, they play a very high intensity football,” Mbong said.

“They have some fast and strong players and no doubt it’s going to be a very difficult game for us.

“Personally, I am enjoying a lot playing in Israel as from a fitness point of view I’m feeling great at the moment.

“The speed of the game there improves you as a player, particularly as inevitably you start to think faster and helps you play high level football.

“So, hopefully, I can continue to grow as a player there.”


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