4 October 2021
Malta registers its third World Cup qualifying victory
Interview with two-goal hero Cain Attard and coach Devis Mangia
“Constant improvement can take us to a new height”
While Malta may be one of the smallest countries in the world, this island state has a longer and more illustrious football history than many other nations. Founded even before FIFA in 1900, it was accepted as a member of UEFA and FIFA 60 years later.
Since then Malta has competed in every qualifying competition for both UEFA EUROs and – since the 1974 edition – for the FIFA World Cup ™. They recorded their first two competitive victories in European qualifiers against Greece in 1975 and Iceland in 1982, two nations that continued to play in the World Cup.
The island has played many memorable qualifying matches since then. The West German star-studded squad could only impress a 3-2 victory in front of a record crowd just two years after finishing second at the 1982 World Cup. Portugal were forced to settle for a 2-2 draw in 1987, while only a late penalty save allowed England to secure a 2-1 victory in a UEFA EURO 2000 warm-up match and save them. themselves out of embarrassment. Last year the Reds finished their high-level EURO 2020 qualifying campaign by beating the Faroe Islands. They quickly followed this up by beating Cyprus 3-0 in September 2021 to record only their third victory in qualifying for the World Cup.
FIFA.com spoke to Cain Attard, who scored twice in that match, and national team coach Devis Mangia.
FIFA.com: By four weeks ago, Malta had won just two of their 105 previous World Cup qualifiers – beating Estonia 1-0 in May 1993 and Armenia 1-0 in ‘June 2013. Then came the third victory against Cyprus. How did they feel?
Cain Attard: Winning is always a great feeling, but winning a competitive game with your national team is even better. The whole team performed solidly, and I think we stuck to the coach’s plan and turned several moments into the match to our advantage. Getting the fans back on the pitch after so long also gave us a lift.
Devis Mangia: The main feeling behind our victory against Cyprus was one of satisfaction with the way the team developed and improved. The collective performance is more important to us than the result, and we were very happy that the team had another positive game that reflects the progress they have made in recent months.
Kajjin, I scored two goals. Was that the best moment in your career so far?
Attard: It was a fantastic moment for me, and one that meant a lot to me personally as well. I’m not a player who scores a lot of goals, so it was particularly special for me to score in such an important match. It’s definitely one of the best moments of my career so far, and I hope there are many more like it.
Malta were ranked 171st (+6) in the FIFA / Coca-Cola World Rankings for September, their best position in years. Is Malta reaching a new level?
Attard: This team always tries to get positive results regardless of who we are playing with, and this helps us improve our ranking. That is why I think it is very possible that we can continue our rise in the rankings. But it is a gradual process, and our goal is to keep growing. Constant improvement can take us to a new height.
Eat: We are pleased to understand that Malta have improved their position in the FIFA rankings, but this is just one confirmation that we are going in the right direction. It would be bad for us to stop and think we have achieved something, because we still have a long way to go. We want to see it as another step in team development and keep working together to improve further.
What are your goals for the upcoming matches?
Attard: We always go out on the field to win the match. We know our opponents, and we will analyze them when the team joins together for an international duty. In any case, it will be two difficult matches against Slovenia at home and Cyprus away, but with the right attitude and mindset, we have a good chance of getting positive results from our matches in October.
Eat: Our main goal is to sustain and build on the positive things we have achieved so far. We need to have the right mindset in the day, as this is essential if we are to keep improving. Our philosophy is that the result reflects our performance on the pitch, and our work in training is focused on preparing players to realize their maximum individual and collective potential on the day of the match. match.
Do you think that Malta will ever play in EUROs or a World Cup?
Attard: Nobody knows what will happen in the future, but I think that if Maltese football develops consistently and makes progress in all areas, then we will have the opportunity to qualify for a major tournament. It may be in the near future or several years from now, but anything is possible.
Eat: Never say never! We know it’s a big challenge but in football, like in life, you always need to work hard and put your eyes higher. That is my philosophy, and it is at the heart of our work with the national teams, the coaching setup and Maltese football as a whole.
Kajjin, your coach has been in his role since 2019. Can you briefly describe it for us?
Attard: As soon as he took the lead, he immediately focused on how he wanted the team to play, and our performances clearly show that the players have adapted to his style. It’s always nice to see a team play from behind and attack – and that’s a whole new approach to Malta. I think the football we are playing now is much more exciting and fun for both the players and the whole country when they see our team play.
In what areas can Maltese football be improved?
Eat: As a team we can improve in every area of the game. Everyone should support the vision of the Malta Football Association and help make it a reality to ensure that Malta can continue to develop as a football nation. We need to understand that all the components – the national team players, the coaching staff, the officials and the clubs – have to play their part together with the authorities, the government. After all, the only way to raise our game in all areas is for everyone to work together toward a common goal.