Malta coach Ray ‘Żażu’ Farrugia urges supporters to not give up on national team

In MaltaToday interview, Farrugia calls on all football enthusiasts to stay behind the team during their participation in the UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying matches

Ray ‘Żażu’ Farrugia
Ray ‘Żażu’ Farrugia

National football team coach Ray ‘Żażu’ Farrugia has urged supporters  to stand behind the team as Malta faces a tough group in the UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying matches.

Malta will compete in group F, which also includes Spain, Sweden, Norway, Romania and the Faroe Islands.

Playing against such strong opponents might appear daunting, but Farrugia insists that everyone remaonpositive.

The Malta coach told MaltaToday that he was expecting everyone involved to be proud to play for the national team.

Farrugia praised his players for their commitments and pointed that everyone needw to work hard in order to raise the standards:

“First and foremost, we expect our players to be proud to be part of the national squad. I have nothing but praise for our players for their dedication and commitment,” he said.

“Everyone knows that we are in a very tough Euro 2020 group but we are looking forward to the challenge. All games will be difficult but we have to be positive, believe in our capabilities and be prepared to work even harder to further raise our standards. This is what we expect from everyone involved with the national team, players and coaching staff, and this is how we are approaching these qualifiers.”

The only side Malta can realistically hope to win points against are the Faroe Islands.

In a recent UEFA Nations League match, Malta lost 3-1  away, but shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw at the National Stadium.

Farrugia acknowledged Malta could win more points against Faroe Islands and noted that the team’s opening match could be crucial.

“In the two matches we played against the Faroe Islands in the UEFA Nations League, we showed that we can hold our own. Our opening qualifier from Euro 2020 Group F is at home against the Faroe Islands on 23 March and that will be a big match for us,” he said.

“We will be giving our all to start this competition on a bright note and hopefully set the tone for a positive campaign.”

One of the hurdles which the national team will need to face is the limited number of players  the coach can choose for the nation team.

In fact players such as Michael Mifsud, who will turn 38 in April, are still an integral part of the national team.

Farrugia is still determined to play Malta’s longest serving player and, when asked how long can he could rely on  Mifsud, he argued that as long as the player was fit, the national team could rely on him.

“It’s not for me to say how long Michael Mifsud can go on but he has proved his worth to the national team time and time again,” Farrugia said.

“His record for the national team is incredible. As long as Michael is fit and doing well for his club, we know that we can rely on him. Furthermore, with his immense experience, Michael can help the young players coming into the squad. “

One of the reasons why the national team has to rely so much on Mifsud is that there are very few viable alternatives.

Most of the strikers playing regularly in the Premier League are foreigners and thus the Maltese youngsters are finding limited options.

One such example is Kyrian Nwoko.

The youngster had an excellent campaign last season with Valletta and also earned himself a place with the national team.

However, after the team signed Mario Fontanella and Bojan Kaljevic, Nwoko found himself on the bench and is not featuring regularly for his club.

Farrugia said that as a national coach, he likes to see Maltese players involved in Sunday games, but respects the choices made by the coaches.

“As national coach, I would naturally like to see the Maltese players get regular playing time with their clubs. The pool of players is restricted but we have to make the most of our resources,” he said.

“If more Maltese players received more first-team opportunities, that would be an advantage for the national team. But this is something which is beyond our control and we respect the choices made by the club coaches.”

As to the upcoming campaign, Farrugia urged supporters to not give up on the team.

““My message to the local football enthusiasts is to support our national team through thick and thin. This is what defines true fans,” he said.

“We need our supporters to get behind our team and create a special atmosphere, especially during home matches. I have said this many times and I will keep repeating it… the national team belongs to all the Maltese people.”

Malta will kick-off the qualifying campaign with two matches at the National Stadium.

The Maltese players will face Faroe Islands on 23 March and, three days later, will have a very challenging task as they play against Spain.

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