It’s hard to remember Malta’s football team being in a better place. Last night’s 3-0 victory over Cyprus means Malta is right in the mix in its World Cup qualification group, only three points behind group leaders Croatia and Russia.
And with an away game against Slovenia, who are only ahead of Malta on goal difference, coming up on Saturday, the nation is daring to dream.
Manager Devis Mangia made his intentions clear in his post-match press conference last night.
“We must celebrate a bit after tonight but Saturday has clearly become our most important game now,” he said as he toasted his players for their performance.
“We must be confident and we want everyone to be proud of our players.”
Confidence was clearly flowing through the veins of Malta’s players last night as they tore through ten-man Cyprus with ease, courtesy of two goals from Cain Attard and a header from Joseph Mbong.
The Malta Football Association dedicated the result to the fans, who returned to Ta’ Qali Stadium for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
“Thanks for the choreography and the constant cheering, thanks for being the 12th man on the pitch, thanks for your support. This win is dedicated to you.”
Sports journalist Gianluca Lia leafed through the history books and crunched some numbers to show just how significant the result was for Malta.
He noted that this was not only Malta’s first-ever World Cup qualifier win on home soil, but a result that places the national team a mere point away from its record of five points in a qualification round for a major tournament.
And this with six games still to play.
Malta 3-0 Cyprus.
✅ First ever World Cup qualifier win on home soil.
✅ 1 point away from the record of 5 points in a qualification round for a major tournament.
✅ Devis Mangia's 9th positive result in 14 matches.
— Gianluca Lia (@gianlia96) September 1, 2021
It also means Malta, along with Russia, has scored the most goals in Group H so far, more than 2018 World Cup finalists Croatia – the highest number of goals in a World Cup qualification campaign since 1986 (six goals) and the highest overall since the Euro 2008 qualifiers (ten goals).
Prime Minister Robert Abela and Opposition leader Bernard Grech were both at Ta’ Qali to watch the game and they expressed their delight afterward.
And their sentiments echoed those of several fans across the island, who soaked in the scenes of joy.
Malta really couldn’t have hoped for a better game, and with Slovenia coming up in a few days’ time, the nation dares to dream.
Cover photos: Malta Football Association