Malta may not be one of Europe’s strongest teams, however they were on the winners list in the first week of qualifying for Euro 2020.
The ‘Knights of Malta’ defeated the Faroe Islands 2-1, despite finishing the game with ten men. Last night also saw them fall 2-0 to Spain, who are no doubt the strongest team in the group.
The victory over the Faroe Islands was a moment to savour for the Maltese fans, as wins are not that common – it was only their second victory since 2015, with the last coming in 2017 when Malta stunned Ukraine 1-0 away from home. It was also their first competitive victory at home in 13 years.
Regardless, Ray Farrugia’s men are fourth in their group and still have what it takes to try and win a second match. They next face Sweden and Romania and while these will prove to be tough contests, they are every chance of defeating Norway and the Faroe Islands again in the return fixture.
Malta are led by captain Michael Mifsud, who infamously made 14 appearances for Melbourne Heart in the A-League. Mifsud has made 138 caps for his country and has amassed 41 goals. At 37 years of age, he is still making an impact on the field and is the highest capped player in Maltese history.
Paul Fenech is another experienced member of the squad, who has made 55 appearances for his national team and has scored one goal. Fenech was at Maltese club Birkirkara for much of his career, where he accumulated 240 competitive appearances.
One of the bright young prospects of the Maltese national team is 21-year-old winger Kyrian Nwoko. The Valletta FC player scored his maiden international goal in the victory over the Faroe Islands, in what was only his sixth international match. He is the son of former Maltese international Chucks Nwoko.
The only player in the squad to be playing abroad is 25-year-old defender Zach Muscat, who is on-loan at Portuguese club SC Olhanense in the Campeonato de Portugal. Muscat has also had stints in Italy’s Serie C and has 27 international caps.
Carmel Busuttil was one of Malta’s greatest ever players, with the striker amassing a 22-year playing career. During this time, he scored 45 goals in 166 appearances for Belgian side Genk and captained the club. Following his playing days, he had a brief managerial career and was an assistant at the Maltese national team.
There is a strong Australian connection with Malta, with a couple of Australians even choosing to play for them. Some of these players include Central Coast Mariners legend John Hutchinson, who made 11 appearances, while former Wellington Phoenix defender Manny Muscat played nine times. Marconi Stallions player Mitchell Mallia was also called up into the Maltese national team in 2018.
Malta will next play Sweden in June and it will be interesting to see how they perform. Sweden will be going into the match as clear favourites and many will be expecting a one-sided affair. However, after limiting Spain to only two goals, Malta will have the belief that they can make it a tight contest.