The Malta Independent 9 December 2018, Sunday

UEFA Nations League: ‘Attitude is the key to success’ – Ray ‘Zazu’ Farrugia

Domenic Aquilina Friday, 7 September 2018, 11:30 Last update: about 3 months ago
Malta coach Ray Farrugia (C) follows his players during a Malta training stint early this week. Photo © Domenic Aquilina
Malta coach Ray Farrugia (C) follows his players during a Malta training stint early this week. Photo © Domenic Aquilina

Again that time when everyone hopes for a good result from the Malta national football team is around. On Wednesday Malta headed off to the Faroe Islands for our debut in the newly introduced UEFA Nations League.

Tonight, in Tórsvøllur, Torshavn Malta will come face-to-face with the Faroe Islands in the first fixture of the competition.  Three days later we will host Azerbaijan at the National Stadium, Ta' Qali. 

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Both matches kick off 20:45 local times.

 

League D, Group 3

Malta is pitted in League D, Group 3 together with Azerbaijan, the Faroe Islands and Kosovo.

Things seem to have changed for the better in the Malta camp since Ray "Zazu" Farrugia took over at the helm of the team after the dismissal of Tom Saintfiet at the beginning of May.

Domenic Aquilina visited the Malta squad camp at Ta' Qali during one of the training sessions this week and took some views from Farrugia himself and team members Paul Fenech and Zach Muscat.

 

Will Malta deliver this time round?

The direct question relayed to each was that that the Maltese football community this time round expects the team to deliver and get results against teams which are no big football nations.

Birkirkara midfielder Paul Fenech stated that this time round Malta has to deliver with no excuses.

"Just like the coach and my colleagues have been stating, I think these two matches will provide us with an opportunity for us to show our real potential. This time round there are no excuses about playing against bigger football nations, as these nations are basically on our own level. 

"Ok I do not expect easy matches but we have to look forward to these matches as an opportunity to get points and good results.

"This week we have worked intensively as a group.  Obviously we have now to look forward with optimism to these two matches. 

"We have to take each match step-by-step. The Faroe Islands will not be easy away from home, not an easy match at all. We have studied our opponents well and we are optimistic." 

Another established member of the Malta squad is none other than central defender Zach Muscat. Muscat has prolonged his career in Italy by signing for Italian Serie C outfit Pistoiese at the beginning of July.

"I can state that the change at the helm of the head coach has changed quite a good number of things at the Malta camp - in a positive manner. Mentality and how we have to look at these matches has changed under the new coaching staff who has made it quite clearly that the new project this time round has to be that to go for results and points,"  stated Muscat

 

Impact

Head coach Ray "Zazu" Farrugia seems to have made an instant impact on the Malta camp. 

"Two forthcoming not easy matches but not impossible.  We have and are prepared well - in particular during the July training camp in Austria. This squad is made of a good blend of 'veterans' all loaded with experience mixed with that from the new generation of footballers, - the future of Maltese football.

"These experienced players have to lead by example and 'assist' this new upcoming crop of youngsters for the future of Maltese football. 

"Again I would like to mention and stress again that in 118 years of Maltese football history, Malta has won only five competitive times - if you work it out we have won one match every 23 years.  I do think that we are much better than this. 

"Some ask me, but how can we change all this? Yes we can - attitude, which is the key to success, we have to be more focused, prepare in a more professional of manners.

"Apart from this we are seeing more things moving on - the new national team dressing rooms project that the local Association has embarked upon - chartered flights project - direct flights, - all things which make up a professional set-up.

"Unity is all here to see, my coaching staff works as a group - it is not myself but we! If we win or get good results this team does not belong to Ray Farrugia but to all the Maltese sporting public. 

"I am not saying we are going to perform miracles - forget it.  I always say to my players - everything is possible except death - but you have to prepare well - professionally. 

"If we have a good look at our first opponents, the Faroe Islands, well they are ranked better than us but despite this I believe that we are on a par with them as a football nation.  My point is yes everything is possible," concluded Farrugia who will be leading his Malta team in his first competitive game at the helm.

In the four previous encounters between the two sides the Faroes came out on top on three occasions with Malta winning the other. 

The two sides last met in 1997, the Faroes twice winning 2-1. 

Malta's first opponents finished in fourth placing in the 2018 World Cup qualifying group.

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