Malta

Malta

  • Capital: Valletta / Il-Belt Valletta
  • Official Languages: Maltese, English
  • Other Languages: Italian
  • Nicknames: Knights of Malta; Ħomor (Reds); Falcons
  • Association: Malta Football Association (MFA) / Assoċjazzjoni tal-Futbol ta’ Malta
  • FIFA Code: MLT

Records

  • Best World Cup Result (Men): Not Qualified
  • Best World Cup Result (Women): Not Qualified
  • Best Euros Result (Men): Not Qualified
  • Best Euros Result (Women): Not Qualified
  • Highest FIFA Ranking (Men): 66th (September 1994 & September 1995)
  • Highest FIFA Ranking (Women): 74th (August 2003)
  • Lowest FIFA Ranking (Men): 191st (July 2017 & September 2017)
  • Lowest FIFA Ranking (Women): 113th (December 2006)
  • Most Capped Player: Michael Mifsud – 143 caps
  • Top Scorer: Michael Mifsud – 42 goals

The Republic of Malta (Repubblika ta’ Malta) is a south European island nation situated roughly in the centre of the Mediterranean Sea. Located just 80km/50mi from the southern coast of the Italian island of Sicily, it is the world’s tenth smallest country in terms of area, and the fourth most densely populated country with just over half a million people living on the Maltese archipelago. Due to its massive strategic importance as a naval base within the Mediterranean, it has been ruled by various foreign powers throughout its lengthy history, however the islands finally gained their independence from Britain in 1964. Curiously the Maltese FA became a member of FIFA and UEFA before independence, being admitted in 1959 and 1960 respectively, with the former British colony having its first official international before then in 1957 in 2-3 defeat against Austria.

Due to their size in both area and population, Malta have always been one of the ‘minnows’ of European football, often being placed in the lowest ranks/pots of qualifying draws. However, they are renowned for being a difficult team to play against in European football, with the Maltese team often performing admirably against more illustrious opponents and causing the odd shock result now and again. Most recently the Maltese side’s fortunes picked up during their 2020-21 UEFA Nations League Division D campaign. In a tough group with the Faroe Islands, Latvia, and Andorra, they managed two wins (only their seventh and eight competitive wins in their history, against Latvia and Andorra respectively) and three draws from their six group games to finish in second position in their group, and just missing out on promotion by three points. A hugely impressive display from a side who were initially ranked as the 54th best side in Europe (out of 55 teams), and with a promising batch of players being promoted to the national team recently, they will certainly be aiming for promotion to Division C in the next edition of the Nations League in 2022-23.

Talking about one of Europe’s underdogs who currently play in Division D of the UEFA Nations League, we interviewed the excellent Gianluca Lia. He is a talented sports writer who writes for the Sports Desk of the Times of Malta, as well as being the media officer for the Maltese FA’s women’s department, and a contributor to the new upcoming European podcast and account The Sweeper. To find their social media accounts, follow the links below:

Q. Who would you say is your country’s best player and coach/manager of all-time, and the reasonings behind the choices?

Michael Mifsud

Malta isn’t renowned for having world-class players but throughout history we had players who left their mark across Europe, and beyond as well. 80’s-star Carmel Busuttil is a legend at Genk in Belgium, but I would say Michael Mifsud. First, I was not alive during Busuttil’s era, so I did not watch him live while I have been following Michael Mifsud since the start. He is the record man for Malta in both appearances and goals. At club level, he has delighted the Maltese fans with some memorable games including a famous brace for Coventry City against Manchester United at Old Trafford. As regarding the women’s team, obviously history is much shorter in this case and I would opt for Dorianne Theuma, as she became the first female player to reach 100 caps for Malta.

Q. Who could be regarded as a ‘cult hero’ in terms of the national team both in the past and present?

Teddy Teuma

Timely question as I would suspect Teddy Teuma [27 year-old midfielder currently playing for Belgian club Royale Union Saint-Gilloise] is the current cult hero. He has recently made his debut for Malta due to his dual citizenship [having been born in France] and has been a major addition with his excellent and neat playing style. Same goes for Emma Lipman [32 year-old English-born defender currently playing for Lazio] maybe in the women’s side, whose recent inclusion to the team has helped the team to upgrade its level.

Q. Of the current team, who would you say is the best player from Malta currently?

Haley Bugeja

The Malta men’s national team has improved drastically in recent games and given I have already mentioned Teddy Teuma, I’d opt for Matthew Guillaumier [22 year-old midfielder] who is having a brilliant season at leaders Ħamrun Spartans and is one of the next generation players for this team. On the other hand, obviously Haley Bugeja [16 year-old wonderkid forward playing at Sassuolo] is grabbing headlines all over the world so it’s easy to name her as the best women’s player, but I would give credit to the other foreign-based players together with the players who play locally as the women’s game is growing in Malta.

Q. How would you describe the current state/performance of the national team?

It’s a delightful state for both the men’s and women’s teams with their recent success in the previous UEFA Nations League campaign and in the 2022 UEFA Women’s Euros qualifications.

Q. Are there any Maltese players who you think we should be focusing on for the future – who would you say is the most exciting up & coming talent from the country?

For the men’s team, there are a lot of youngsters to keep an eye on besides Guillaumier:

Joseph Mbong
  • Joseph Mbong [23 year-old attacking midfielder/forward currently at Ħamrun Spartans]
  • Juan Corbalan [24 year-old right-winger at Ħamrun Spartans]
  • Paul Mbong [19 year-old forward at Birkirkara and younger brother of Joseph]
  • Jurgen Degabriele [24 year-old forward at Hibernians]
  • Kyrian Nwoko [23 year-old forward currently at Valletta]
Nicole Sciberras

For the women’s team, there are a number of great players also besides Haley Bugeja:

  • Nicole Sciberras [19 year-old defender currently playing at Juventus]
  • Alexandra Gatt [17 year-old defender previously at Mgarr United]
  • Kailey Willis [17 year-old forward at Hellas Verona]

Q. Looking at Malta’s international history, what would you say has been the best game, result or performance for the national team in your opinion?

For the men’s team, Malta versus Hungary 2-1 remains a historic match – their first international win in 13 years back in 2006 for the Euro 2008 qualifying. For the women’s team, Israel versus Malta 0-2 was the pinnacle of the recent qualifiers success.

Q. Likewise, is there a performance or result which is regarded as the team’s lowest point?

For the men’s team, many will say Spain 12-1 Malta in 1983 [still Malta’s worst-ever defeat] but I would say Gibraltar 1-0 Malta, the first ever win for Gibraltar in a friendly in 2014. Meanwhile, for the women’s could be a 4-2 defeat to the Faroe Islands in 2015 which denied them a qualification into the proper qualifications for the 2017 UEFA Women’s Euros.

Q. What are the best and worst things about being a fan of the Maltese national team?

Being an underdog is both the best and worst because you might get disappointing results, even against par-level sides but whenever a positive result is recorded, that is always a bonus.

Q. Have the fans adopted some kind of unofficial anthem to sing along to before/during/after matches?

There are plenty of chants, but right now I would say it is Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline“!

Q. Do you have a favourite or iconic shirt from the whole time of the national team?

The most recent Malta home shirt

Yes, I have the early 2000’s men’s national team kit and the 2022 UEFA Women’s Euros qualifiers shirt as well.

Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of the Maltese national team?

Improvement, both at youth and senior level but not only on the field but also off the field as this will enable our holistic movement to grow.

A massive grazzi ħafna to Gianluca for answering our questions on the Knights of Malta. Remember you can find their excellent social media accounts in the links at the top of the blogpage.

If you have any comments, suggestions, reactions, or even your own answers to the above questions, please write them in the comments box below. Likewise, you can either email us at the94thmin@gmail.com or send a message at @The94thMin on Twitter.

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