First matches scheduled for March 23, 2023
The Malta national team will face against current European champions Italy and finalists England as the draws of the 2024 European Championship qualifiers were held in Germany on Sunday.
There were great expectations among the football fraternity in Malta to see the national team paired with at least one of the European giants and Sunday’s draw pitted the national team with arguably the two most popular national teams on the island as they will face Italy and England in the qualifying campaign that will get under way next March.
Malta, who earlier this month missed out on promotion in the UEFA Nations League following a 2-1 defeat in Estonia, will also be up against Ukraine and Northern Macedonia, in a five-team Group C.
The first matches of the Euro 2024 qualifiers are planned for March 23, 2023.
The Malta FA has some work to do before the start of the European Championship qualifiers as they need to settle the future of national teams’ head coach Devis Mangia who is currently suspended after he was accused of alleged improper conduct against two national team players.
The case has been referred to the Malta FA’s Safeguarding Officer to investigate the allegations made, gather information and compile a report about the case which will be submitted to the Safeguarding Board in accordance with a time table set by the Executive Board.
The Malta is expected to take a final decision on Mangia’s future so that the team will start its preparations for the Euro 2024 qualifying campaign with a friendly match against Ireland in November.
No doubt, there will be great expectation for the fixture schedule as the Maltese fans will be keen to relive the emotions of facing both Italy and England.
Malta have faced both England and Italy in qualifying matches for the European Championship.
In fact, Malta’s first competitive meeting with Italy for the 1988 European Championship with the Italians winning the clash at the National Stadium 2-0 on December 6, 1986 before romping to a 5-0 win in the return match in January 1987.
Malta and Italy were drawn again for the Euro 2016 qualifiers and on that occasion the Italians had to battle more for the points as they grabbed a 1-0 win in Ta’ Qali in March 2014 and then edging the return match in Florence in September 2015.
Malta faced Italy also for the 1994 World Cup and the Azzurri, led by Arrigo Sacchi, won 2-0 at the National Stadium before scoring a comprehensive 6-1 win in the second match in Italy.
On the other hand, Malta faced England just once in the European Championship qualifiers.
In fact, the first meeting between the two countries was way back on February 3, 1971 when in front of a packed Stadium in Gżira, England battled to a 1-0 win.
The return match at Wembley Stadium was played three months later with the Three Lions romping to a 5-0 win.
Thirty five years had to pass for the two countries to be drawn against each other but this time they faced each other in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers and on that occasions England won the first clash at Wembley Stadium 2-0 before cruising to a 4-0 win in Ta’ Qali the following year.
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