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Coach Ghedin awaits Malta breakthrough

"My boys are improving all the time and are getting there," Pietro Ghedin told UEFA.com with Malta's Italian coach eager to end a long wait for a European win.

Pietro Ghedin conducts a Malta training session
Pietro Ghedin conducts a Malta training session ©Domenic Aquilina

With Malta's preparations for their UEFA EURO 2016  Group H encounters with Norway and Italy in full swing, coach Pietro Ghedin is eager to take points from both encounters.

The 61-year-old Italian is particularly looking forward to facing the Azzurri, having worked on their national team coaching staff from 1996 to 2005, as Italy reached four major tournaments. UEFA.com caught up with the former SS Lazio player, whose second spell at the Malta helm began in 2012, and found that he is eager to emulate the successes of his first stint – from 1993-95 – which brought four victories and five draws in 24 games.

UEFA.com: How do you rate your chances against Norway and Italy?

Pietro Ghedin: They are two difficult matches. The first will be more physical, while the second will be more tactical, and I am sure Italy will be very strong. Italy have great personality.

UEFA.com: As an Italian who worked for the Azzurri for such a long time, what will it be like to face them?

Ghedin: I always have great feelings as I look back to my days with the Azzurri but now I work for Malta. When the national anthems are played, I will stay silent, but lots of memories will be coming back of both sides.

UEFA.com: Malta's last EURO qualifying win was 2-1 against Hungary in 2006. Will we see another in this campaign?

Ghedin: Yes – we have to make that happen. I am quite upbeat about my squad. The important thing is that my boys are improving all the time and are getting there. I am very confident.

UEFA.com: Group H is very tough with Bulgaria, Croatia and Azerbaijan as well as Italy, and Norway. What can Malta realistically hope to achieve?

Ghedin: There are no low-profile sides – no doubt about that. We have to keep on offering good opposition and keep striving hard, use our heads and of course be in the best possible physical condition.

My message to the players is to be brave, to keep on striving hard and never to be afraid. If you are afraid or if you flinch, you cannot confront your opposition. If you are brave, you play in a much calmer manner.

UEFA.com: What has changed since your return in May 2012? Do you see Maltese football getting better?

Ghedin: What needs to be changed is to improve the professionalism, and for people to believe in what they do. Also,  we need the players to get more help to improve. We are getting there. I have seen many positive projects since I arrived in Malta, but we all have to do much more. My responsibility is to keep the group united and to make them believe in what we are doing.

UEFA.com: Why do fewer Maltese players feature in big foreign leagues than do in other similar-sized nations?

Ghedin: Malta is an island – we are surrounded by the sea. We are far away from neighbouring countries. Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Andorra and Gibraltar all border big nations. For them, it is easy. For us, it is more difficult, but we hope that the very near future will be better. We have really talented youngsters coming through – we hope that they will be noticed and that we will also get our share of players going abroad.

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