The Malta Independent 23 January 2020, Thursday

Euro 2020: Zazu’s restricted choice

Chris Cassar Sunday, 9 June 2019, 11:00 Last update: about 7 months ago
Photo: Joe Borg/MFA
Photo: Joe Borg/MFA

The third game in the Euro Qualifying Group F is now part of football history, with Malta suffering its twelfth defeat in as many matches against Sweden.

National coach Ray Farrugia is trying to change the mentality of the team, from a purely defensive team to an attacking formation. The road is long and uphill, and many a times, like much of the second half at the Friends Arena in Solna, we end up under heavy pressure.

But at least Farrugia is trying to give the side a different approach, and his choices for the initial line up against Sweden clearly confirms this. Playing away to Sweden with two strikers and an attacking midfielder like Jake Grech was undoubtedly a risky but a courageous choice.

This paid off, especially in the first half. Suffering a goal after barely 85 seconds was surely a heavy blow to absorb. But the boys in red showed great determination and composure in emerging from such a difficult moment.

With Joseph Mbong in impressive form the Maltese played some good football, never booting the ball away, even though it must be said there were some anxious moments in out penalty area. But the Swedes were only really dangerous from a couple of freekicks.

Malta some good situations upfront but we missed the final pass. However just before the break Malta created a very good opportunity, with Effiong's close range header brilliantly saved by the Swedish custodian.

In the second half the Maltese were outclassed, but Bonello stood out with some daring saves. The team lost its composure and shape, but still the intentions remained positive, trying to attack when possible, and keeping the same set-up introducing a striker, Nwoko, for another striker Montebello in the final twenty minutes of the game.

As Ray Farrugia said after the match against Sweden, we should only look forward, and tomorrow Malta faces another difficult task against Romania, who after their draw in Oslo on Friday, are still in the run for qualification and will be determined to take maximum points from the Ta' Qali clash.

As the national coach likes to say, we should keep the building process going. Let us hope that tomorrow's match will be another important brick in this building process of our national team.

But back to Farrugia's choices, the national coach speaking in the pre-match press conference in Solna, said that his choices are restricted to 76 players. Asked by a Swedish journalist on how he came to this number, Farrugia said that with each team in the Premier League playing with seven foreigners, there is only space for four Maltese players per team.

Farrugia admitted he is not a great mathematician and he was right, because strictly speaking, four players for each team sums it up to a more shocking 56 Maltese players to choose from. But this is not a mathematical exercise, and Ray Farrugia was right in claiming that his selection options are restricted.

One wonders what Ray Farrugia's already restricted choice, will be down to, if Premier League sides can field up to eleven foreign players in the future!! 

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