Updated | Malta lose 0-2 to reigning European champions Italy in sold-out stadium

Thousands filled Ta’ Qali Stadium to see Malta play against reigning European football champions Italy in the second-round Euro 2024 qualifier

Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday
Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday

Thousands filled Ta’ Qali Stadium as Malta lost 0-2 to reigning European football champions Italy on Sunday night in the second-round Euro 2024 qualifier.

The Maltese national team conceded two goals in the first half hour, with goals scored by Mateo Retegui and Matteo Pessina.

Both teams lost their opening qualifiers with an identical 2-1 scoreline last Thursday as Malta succumbed to North Macedonia and Italy were mauled by England.

This was the ninth time in their history that Malta and Italy will face each other. For the Euro 2024 qualifiers, Malta was drawn against Italy, England, Ukraine and North Macedonia in what is a very attractive group for football fans.

The tie gives the Maltese a chance to prove themselves against some of the top talents in the world.

The first match between Malta and Italy was played on the 6 December 1986, with the Azzuri winning 2-0 at Ta’ Qali Stadium thanks to goals by Riccardo Ferri u Alessandro Altobelli. Altobelli had also missed two penalties.

The return leg, played at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia in Bergamo, saw the Italians winning 5-0. Goals were scored by Salvatore Bagni, Giuseppe Bergomi, the late Gianluca Vialli and a brace by Alessandro Altobelli.

But football old-timers will remember mostly the December 1992 match, part of the World Cup qualifiers played at Ta’ Qali when Malta missed out on a historic draw, losing 2-1. Malta’s Kris Laferla had missed a penalty and in the dying minutes of the game Martin Gregory tapped into the back of the net to send shivers down Italian spines as a vibrant Malta team surged forward.

The last match between the two was played in September 2015 at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in Firenze, with Pelle’ scoring a controversial goal which could have easily been a foul in Malta’s favour. In the post-match press conference, coach Antonio Conte had refused to answer questions on the controversial decision. 

In the eight-previous matchups, the Azzuri always won, scoring 21, and conceding two goals. 

First round result 

A plucky Malta was undone by two quick goals in the space of a few minutes by North Macedonia in its debut match of the Euro 2024 qualifiers.

The match marked the debut of Michele Marcolini as Malta national team coach.

North Macedonia scored two goals in the 65th and 71st minute with substitute Yannick Yankam grabbing one back for Malta in the 81st minute. Despite Malta’s pressing to try and draw level, the North Macedonians held strong to leave the pitch with their first three points.

Playing in the same group as Malta, Italy suffered a 2-1 defeat at home in Naples at the hands of England. Harry Kane scored from the penalty spot to become the all-time top scorer for England.

Declan Rice opened the score after 13 minutes, followed by Kane’s penalty in the 44th minute. Italy’s Matteo Retegui grabbed one for the home team at the change of ends in the 56th minute. England had to play the last 10 minutes of the game with a man less after Luke Shaw was given the marching orders.