Malta national teams head coach Michele Marcolini has urged his players to show the same energy and passion shown against Ukraine last month, as the national team faces arguably their toughest test in the Euro qualifiers when they face England at Wembley Stadium on Friday night.
England have been without a doubt the dominant force in Group C as Gareth Southgate’s team have dropped just two points from the six matches played and are already assured of their place in next year’s finals in Germany.
The Maltese side are keen to try and make life difficult for the home side and coach Michele Marcolini urged his players to give everything they have in the English capital.
“We are aware that we are set for a very tough match against a formidable England side,” the Italian told the Times of Malta.
“England have shown that they are one of the best teams in the world and that is mirrored by their performances in the group which has seen them defeat all the other teams in the section, and dropping just two points in a 1-1 draw against Ukraine.
“They are a team who have scored a lot of goals and play very offensive football, creating a lot of scoring chances. We have to approach the match not with fear, but with the stimulus of trying to give our best and try and make life as difficult as possible for the England team.
“It’s imperative that we do all we can so that we try and achieve the best possible result. It’s going to be important that we play with a strong team spirit and great commitment as we will be facing a very difficult challenge.”
Malta come into the match on the back of a very encouraging performance against Ukraine last month which saw the team create several scoring opportunities and were unlucky to suffer a 2-1 defeat at the National Stadium.
Marcolini is hopeful his players are able to repeat that vibrant display against the Euro 2020 finalists.
“Against Ukraine we produced a high-level display but unfortunately in our group, to win points you need to play a perfect match,” the Italian coach said.
“The team played very well against Ukraine but unfortunately we committed some small errors that denied us the opportunity to take home a positive result. It was a really impressive display where the players played with a lot of aggressivity and the team was always keen to push forward and create scoring chances.
“That kind of performance should be the starting point for us not only against England but also for the matches that we will be facing next year.
“In tomorrow’s match there has to be the desire to produce the same fighting spirit and the will to attack shown against Ukraine. But then again, football is played by two teams and when you face top teams like England, a lot will depend on how much they will let you play your game.
“However, it’s important that we don’t adopt a passive approach and try and pose a good threat to an incredible side like England.”
For this match, Marcolini can bank on Floriana striker Kemar Reid who is expected to make his debut at Wembley after he was awarded a Maltese passport late last month.
The Italian sounded please with what he saw so far from the Jamaican-born forward.
“Kemar Reid has deserved this call-up on the back of some excellent performances for his club,” Marcolini said.
“He has scored a lot of goals for Floriana but also he produced some high-level displays for his club for a long time.
“He has adapted well in the team dynamics during training and the addition of a player of the quality of Kemar will increase our attacking threat and the match against England is a perfect opportunity to include him in the team.”
While Reid was the stand-out addition to the squad, Marcolini has left some high-profile names for this fixture, most notably Balzan midfielder Jake Grech as well as forwards Alex Satariano and Jurgen Degabriele.
“To choose the final list of players is always very difficult,” the Malta coach said.
“This time I had to leave out many players who deserved to be part of the squad but in the end I only have 24 places available. When it comes to choosing this squad I had to look at those players who can give me a good helping hand in this match.
“I take in consideration a lot of factors such as the kind of team we are facing, the players’ physical condition as well as the tactical plan we are looking to adopt for the match.
“But it’s important to point out that the doors of the national team are always open for all those players who deserve to be part of it. All the players eligible are followed during their time with their clubs and we continously evaluate who deserves to be part of the team and the coach then has to make the best possible selection.”
Tonight, the national team will be playing in front of a sell-out crowd at Wembley Stadium which will include over 1,500 Maltese fans who made the trip to London and Marcolini has urged his players to try and make their supporters proud with their display.
“Playing in front of 90,000 people at Wembley Stadium is really fascinating and I don’t think that it could influence negatively our players,” he said.
“Obviously there is going to be a bit of tension given the importance of the occasion but that is normal and the players will experience some big emotions.
“But I have been telling the players to try and convert these emotions into a lot of enthusiasm. There are many people who would like to live these kind of experiences and we are privileged to have the opportunity to experience them at first hand.
“It’s great to have so many Maltese fans watching us and that increases our determination to put on a hard-working display and be ready to sacrifice ourselves so that we can produce a display that makes our fans proud.
“We need to earn ourselves the applause of our fans by giving every ounce of energy we have to try and get the best possible result.”
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