Malta Football Association
NEWS:
Saintfiet heartened by players’ commitment ahead of friendly
Mar 21, 2018
Posted in:
General
National Team
Friendlies

Malta coach Tom Saintfiet has praised the commitment and attitude of his players ahead of the friendly match against Luxembourg at the National Stadium on Thursday (kick-off 6pm).


While acknowledging that Luxembourg will be tough opponents in light of their steady progress in recent years, Saintfiet struck an upbeat note ahead of his second match in charge of the national team.

 

“It’s an important step for our development,” Saintfiet told reporters during the pre-match press conference on Wednesday.

 

“I’m very happy that the Malta Football Association could organise this friendly against Luxembourg and, as staff and players , we are looking forward to it.”

 

Saintfiet delivered an extensive assessment of Luxembourg whose improvement of late is reflected in their FIFA ranking – they are ranked 83rd in the world.

 

“In the seven years Luc Holtz has been national coach of Luxembourg they have improved a lot,” the Malta coach said.

 

“They are at the moment 83rd in the world, we are 185th, that’s a difference of 102 positions and if you look at Luxembourg’s performance last year, they finished fifth in their group with Sweden, Holland and France, and their results were impressive.

 

“They won three official games, against Albania, Belarus and Hungary, and also drew against France and Bulgaria.

 

“They have a lot of young players... 11 Under-21 players in their selection and from the 23 who are here, 16 are professionals who play abroad.”

 

Turning his attention to Malta’s preparations, Saintfiet said that defender Sam Magri had to pull out due to injury which will keep him out for a number of weeks while Australian-based Mitchell Mallia is training with the squad but still awaiting FIFA clearance to represent Malta.

 

“We have 23 fit players,” Saintfiet said.

 

“After the weekend matches, Joseph Zerafa and Steve Borg had some slight injuries but in theory they are ready.

 

“I’m very satisfied about the commitment of the team.

 

“We have a good mix of young players – we have five who have never played for the national team, the likes of Jean Borg, Siraj Arab, Michael Johnson and Triston Caruana.

 

“We also have experienced players. Andrè (Schembri) is one of them along with Andrei Agius, Michael Mifsud and naturally also Roderick Briffa... that cohesion is good.”

 

ATTACKING MINDSET


Saintfiet pledged that Malta will try to play attacking football and pursue a win in the match against Luxembourg.

 

“We’re looking forward to this match,” the Belgian said.

 

“Our aim is to get a good result. In my first game, we lost against Estonia.

 

“I was very disappointed about the result but not disappointed about the performance because we played decent football.

 

“Tomorrow we will play offensive football, try to score goals and hopefully get the first win of 2018.”

 

COMPETITION FOR PLACES


Forward Andrè Schembri, who plays for Apollon Limassol, also sees the Luxembourg friendly as a useful test for Malta in their build-up for their UEFA Nations League commitments. Azerbaijan, Faroe Islands and Kosovo are Malta’s opponents in Group D3.

 

“As the coach said, this is an important match for us because the coach is building a team for the next competition,” Schembri said.

 

“For us, it’s also important... no player has a guaranteed place and therefore we need to give our maximum to gain our place in the team and obtain a positive result.”

 

After the friendly against Luxembourg, the Malta squad travel to Turkey on Friday ahead of their second warm-up match against Finland this coming Monday.

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