Following two positive results in the World Cup Qualifiers, Malta will now head to Stadion Rujevica where the team will face 2018 finalists Croatia for matchday three.
A vibrant Malta, which is ranked 176th in the world, has been rejuvenated under the stewardship of new head coach Devis Mangia.
In the first of its World Cup Qualifiers, star winger Joseph Mbong managed to rattle the Russians after scoring a goal in an undeserved 3-1 loss.
Malta also sent Slovakia into a frenzied panic last Saturday after going up 2-0 in the first half, courtesy of goals scored by Alex Satariano and Luke Gambin. Ultimately, Malta settled for a 2-2 draw.
For the first time in recent history, Malta is playing aggressive, confident, and competitive football, and Mangia is leading the way.
Here’s what you need to know about Malta’s head coach Mangia before tonight’s game.
Mangia has coached some of Italy’s best players
In 2012, Mangia was appointed as Italy Under-21 head coach, leading the team to a UEFA European U21 Championship final against Spain.
Although he stepped down two weeks after the final, citing a desire to manage at club level, he helped nurture and train some of Italy’s best players today.
Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne both served under Mangia and both now feature in Italy’s national squad.
Immobile has scored 20 goals in 35 games in all competitions this season and is Italy’s undisputed leading forward.
He won the Romanian Cup before coming to Malta
In 2017, Mangia was named head coach of Romanian club CS Universitatea Craiova. His tenure with the club was defined by success.
Mangia was first named Coach of the First Half of the Season by LPF. He then went on to win the Romanian League with CS Universitatea.
Mangia has more wins than losses as Malta’s head coach
In his first 10 matches as head coach of Malta, Mangia has more wins and draws than he has losses.
In total, Mangia has four wins, four draws and two losses, one against the Faroe Islands in his opener and the second against Russia last week.
Under Mangia, Malta has won against Gibraltar, Latvia, Liechtenstein and Andorra. The team also drew against the Faroe Islands, Slovakia, Andorra and Latia.
Malta has scored more goals (16) than it has conceded (11) under Mangia’s wing with Steve Borg, Jurgen Degabriele and Kyrian Nwoko leading the way with two goals each.
Mangia’s biggest challenge now awaits him as Malta goes head-to-head against 2018 World Cup finalists Croatia this Tuesday at 8:45pm.
Croatia has gotten off to a rocky start in its World Cup qualifiers campaign after losing 1-0 against Slovenia. The team bounced back with a similar result against Cyprus last Saturday and anything other than a comfortable victory over Malta is likely to be considered a disappointment by their standards.
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