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EURO 2024 qualifiers

Watch: Zach Muscat pushing for starting berth against England

Zach Muscat in training with the Malta National team.

Plans to play in Portuguese top flight next season

Zach Muscat is relishing the opportunity of facing world-class opposition in the form of England as the national team continues its preparations for the much-awaited Euro 2024 qualifier at the National Stadium on Friday.

The Farense defender was handed a rare start by Michele Marcolini in last week’s friendly against Luxembourg as he played a key role to help the team to clinch a morale-boosting 1-0 win at the Luxembourg Stadium.

The result was a boost for the national team in a traditional very tricky period whereby players are struggling with fatigue after a long season with their clubs.

“If you look back, history at this time of the year has rarely been in our favour, particularly this season when the season ended much earlier than in the past and therefore there was a significant gap from when we played our last competitive match and last Friday’s friendly,” Muscat said.

“However, it seems that the training programme conducted by the national team coaches and the physical trainers was very well planned as we managed to keep up well with the rhythm of the game. We played against a very good Luxembourg team that is full of players who ply their trade in important championships across Europe and our performance was very good.

“In the first half, we suffered a bit but in the second half, we improved a lot. We know that we have two very difficult matches coming up against England and Ukraine so no doubt that win was an ideal injection of confidence for the whole squad.”

In the past year, Muscat has struggled to secure a regular place in the national team, but on Friday he produced a very accomplished display and came even close to putting his name on the scoresheet when his second-half header came off the upright. The former Birkirkara defender hopes that Friday’s friendly has given coach Michele Marcolini some food for thought for his possible inclusion against England.

“To play for the national team is always a great honour for me,” he said.

“Recently I have struggled to play regularly. But my performances in the Portuguese League with Farense have shown that I have the qualities to be an asset for the national team.

“Against Luxembourg, we played very well as a defensive unit and we conceded very few chances to them, and in the end, we managed to keep a clean sheet. For me, it was a good opportunity to show how much I improved as a player in Portugal and hopefully, I did enough to convince the coach that he can bank on me.


In Portugal this season, Muscat played a key role to help Farense secure promotion to the Portuguese Primeira

The Malta international said that it was far from a straightforward promotion as the team passed through a difficult time at the turn of the year.

“I started to play with Farense after the team had already played three or four matches in the season,” he said.

“Promotion was the club’s main goal of this season and I was recruited to the club to help them reach this goal. I feel that I have matured a lot as a player as I have a better understanding of the game thanks to the opportunity of playing alongside very talented players in my career.

“The season was a mixed bag of emotions. In January we had one foot in the Portuguese top-flight but then a spate of negative results put our hopes on the edge. After the March international break, we had nine matches to play and we lost the first one against the bottom-placed team.

“Then we played against the league leaders and managed to win and from then we never looked back as we made it eight wins in a row to secure direct promotion to the top flight. It was a marvellous result that instilled a lot of confidence in the team.

“For me personally, it was another landmark season as it was my second successive promotion to the Portuguese Primeira Liga and after helping the team finish with the best defensive record in the whole division for a second successive campaign.”

Asked what are his plans for the future, Zach Muscat has a clear goal on his mind.

“After two successive promotions I feel that the next step that I need to take is to play in the Portuguese Primeira Liga,” he said.

“Obviously, it does not depend fully on me but I feel that now I have become a better player and I am ready to show my worth in the Portuguese top-flight.”

Turning back on Malta’s impending encounter against England, Muscat said that he cannot wait to face world-class opponents like England.

“Against England, we won’t have much pressure on our shoulders as nobody is expecting miracles from us,” Muscat said.

“We saw the quality of this English team, with a good number of them involved in last weekend’s Champions League final, so that speaks volume of their quality. Surely, it’s a great experience as a player to play against these kinds of teams as you have the opportunity to learn even from a humanistic point of view when delving with such star players.

“It’s important that we face the match with a professional approach, be humble, and try and give our best and see what happens. There is no doubt that we are going to have the backing of thousands of Maltese fans who are coming to the stadium on Friday to support us.

“I would like to thank both the fans that came to watch us in Luxembourg last weekend and also those who will be behind us on Friday, particularly the South End Core who always produce very inspiring choreographies that give us players a lot of strength.

“Playing at home with all the fans behind us will be an added weapon for us. It will be important that we follow the instructions of our coach and work very hard during the whole 90 minutes as we know that we will have to suffer.

“But I am sure that if every player works for each other and everyone gives his 100 percent we can make our fans proud… we are really looking forward to it.”


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