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EURO 2024 qualifiers

Watch: Malta coach Marcolini says team must play without fear against North Macedonia

Malta duo Matthew Guillaumier (right) and Alex Satariano in action during training. Photo: Mark Zammit Cordina

The Malta national team opens their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign tonight when they face North Macedonia at the National Arena Todor Proeski in Skopje (kick-off: 20.45).

New coach Michele Marcolini has stepped up preparations for what will be his debut, and speaking at the pre-match press conference, the Italian believes the team’s training camp prior to what he expects to be a very tough fixture was instrumental.

“The players have good knowledge about what I think about tactical ideas or behaviour as well,” Marcolini said.

“I think that everyone knows that our group is very difficult. Maybe the most difficult of all groups. We have two very strong teams – Italy and England – but at the same time we have Macedonia and Ukraine, who lost the possibility to go to the World Cup only because of one match – the playoff.

“This is our truth but at the same time, we have to play without fear and always with the maximum respect for the opponent. Still, we know that we are a small country but we have to be brave and without fear and hopefully we can create something important.

“Of course, we have to give our 100% and after, the pitch will speak for itself.”

In his first stint as a national team coach, Marcolini opened up about the opportunity he was handed, emphasising that the game is the same no matter what.

“I am very proud to be here and I have to thank president Bjorn Vassallo and all of MFA that gave me this chance and I will give all what I have inside to try to help Malta do something important,” he said.

“I think football is football; this is my first time as a national coach but I think nothing changes on the pitch. I’m very happy with this group. I found a very strong group with fantastic guys. We trained very well and we’re ready to start.”

Tough match

Earlier this month, opposing coach Blagoja Milevski had stressed over North Macedonia’s strength when compared with Malta. Asked about Milevski’s statement, Marcolini said: “It’s always the pitch that can give the final result.

“I think that Macedonia is a very strong team. So, we know that for us it will be a tough match but at the same time, we have to think only about us and what we have to do. So, we are only focused on our attitude and behaviour.”

Malta captain Steve Borg echoed his coach’s words, assuring that together with the rest of the team, they would do whatever they can to reach their objectives.

“Everyone knows that the competition is very hard for us and every time we try to do our utmost to reach our objectives.

“I believe that the group is ready for this adventure that we have – eight games this year and obviously we will try to do the best we can to achieve our goals,” Borg said.

Asked about the atmosphere around the dressing room, Borg believes the group is united and ready to go.

“The dressing room atmosphere is very good. We’ve been together for a long time now, and we’ve also got some new faces. They gelled really well, and the staff is doing a great job so we know what we have to do,” Borg explained.

“We’re looking at this game for now – tomorrow’s game against Macedonia is the most important one. After that we can think about Italy.

“We want to give our 100% tomorrow against Macedonia and we’ll try to recover as much as we can and we’ll go again.”

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