Malta has never beaten Croatia in a competitive football match. The closest the country has come is a draw in 2005 in a World Cup Qualifier, the aftermath of which saw Croats uproot seats at Ta’ Qali Stadium and throw them at Maltese supporters.
That equalising goal came from Maltese defender Stephen Wellman, who found the net from a beautiful set piece in the 73rd minute, sending Croatia back home with a 1-1 draw.
@lovinmaltaofficial7 losses. 1 draw. One chaotic end. Tomorrow, we go again 😬🇲🇹🇭🇷 ##fyp ##fypmalta ##malta ##football ##throwback ##worldcup ##qualifier ##lovinmalta♬ original sound – Lovin Malta
“I still remember that goal, it was quite exciting,” Wellman told Lovin Malta. “It was the only goal I scored for Malta. It’s quite unforgettable.”
“We were quite a good team at the time and we had some good results during my era,” Wellman reflected. “We had quite a large attendance in Ta’ Qali and the stadium was full and the excitement was high, you could hear the ground roaring from everywhere when we scored,” he said.
Malta will once again face Croatia tomorrow in the first World Cup qualifying match since that historic day in 2005. While the atmosphere won’t be the same, with it being an away game and the ongoing pandemic, the stakes are still as high.
“The gap has reduced quite significantly and is always decreasing. We don’t look defensive anymore which is a positive thing. We’re playing the ball and we’re not afraid,” Wellman continued.
Wellman praised the current coaching and technical staff, lead by head coach Devis Mangia, for doing its homework, noting how the starting lineup had changed following Malta’s defeat to Russia last week.
“There are good signs and the positive is the team is growing. I think the technical staff is doing a good job at maintaining that,” Wellman said.
“It comes down to some basic stuff, some silly mistakes, that can harm us heavily.”
Being the only Maltese player to score a significant goal against Croatia, Wellman knows what it takes to topple the elite and imparted some words of advice to the players before tomorrow’s high-stakes matchup.
“What you have achieved so far is solely in the past. Keep your heads down and concentrate every minute,” he ended.
Malta faces Group H opponents Croatia tomorrow, 8.45pm, at Stadion Rujevica.
Left Photo Credit: Dominic Aquilina
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