UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying Group F rivals Malta and Latvia will be facing off for the first time in a competitive encounter, having previously met three times in friendly outings.
• Having lost 3-1 to Israel – for whom Yossi Benayoun scored a hat-trick – in their Group F opener in Tel Aviv, Malta and their coach John Buttigieg are nonetheless optimistic of gaining a result against Latvia. "We all knew that the Israel match would be very difficult," Buttigieg, who has replaced Paul Fenech with Ivan Woods, told UEFA.com.
• "Despite being under early pressure my team reacted well and even drew level with a goal from [Jamie] Pace. Again we conceded two goals which we could have avoided. From then on it was impossible to recover. Our immediate objective is now Latvia − another difficult match but not impossible."
• Malta squad
Goalkeepers: Anthony Curmi (Tarxien Rainbows FC), Andrew Hogg (Valletta FC), Mario Muscat (Hibernians FC)
Defenders: Andrei Agius (AS Melfi), Jonathan Caruana (Valletta FC), Clayton Failla (Sliema Wanderers FC), Massimo Grima (Hamrun Spartans FC), Edward Herrera (Hibernians FC), Carlo Mamo (Marsaxlokk FC), Emmanuel Muscat (Wellington Phoenix FC), Joseph Zerafa (Birkirkara FC)
Midfielders: Shaun Bajada (Birkirkara FC), Roderick Briffa (Valletta FC), Trevor Cilia (Birkirkara FC), Ivan Woods (Floriana FC), Ryan Fenech (Hamrun Spartans FC), Jamie Pace (Valletta FC), Kevin Sammut (Valletta FC), Gareth Sciberras (Marsaxlokk FC)
Forwards: Daniel Bogdanovic (Sheffield United FC), Andrew Cohen (Hibernians FC), Michael Mifsud (no club), Ivan Woods (Sliema Wanderers FC)
• Latvia coach Aleksandrs Starkovs has Vitālijs Astafjevs back at full fitness after the captain appeared as a substitute in Friday's 3-0 defeat by Croatia. "Malta don't have players of such high class as Croatia," said Starkovs. "I am sure the hosts will fight hard for 90 minutes and it will not be easy for us, but after a heavy home defeat we have to make it up to the fans and give them something to cheer about."
• Latvia squad
Goalkeepers: Andris Vaņins (FC Sion), Aleksandrs Koļinko (FK Ventspils), Deniss Romanovs (Xäzär Länkäran FK)
Defenders: Pavels Mihadjuks (SK Liepājas Metalurgs), Kaspars Gorkšs (Queens Park Rangers FC), Deniss Ivanovs (Sivasspor), Ritus Krjauklis (FK Ventspils), Oskars Kļava (FC Anzhi Makhachkala), Vitālijs Smirnovs (Skonto FC), Aleksandrs Fertovs (Skonto FC)
Midfielders: Vitālijs Astafjevs (Skonto FC), Andrejs Rubins (Qarabağ FK), Jurijs Žigajevs (FK Ventspils), Maksims Rafaļskis (SK Liepājas Metalurgs), Juris Laizans (FC Salyut Belgorod), Aleksandrs Cauņa (Skonto FC), Artis Lazdiņš (FK Jelgava)
Forwards: Maris Verpakovskis (Ergotelis FC), Ģirts Karlsons (FC İnter Bakı), Andrejs Perepļotkins (Skonto FC), Artjoms Rudņevs (KKS Lech Poznań)
• Malta's record in those three games against Latvia reads W2 D0 L1 (W2 D0 L0 at home).
• The teams made their initial introductions on Maltese soil on 26 May 1992, when the hosts triumphed 1-0 in Ta' Qali. They also came out on top in the most recent meeting between the nations on 8 February 1998, edging a 2-1 victory at the same venue.
• Between those two matches, Latvia claimed a 2-0 victory against Malta in Riga on 2 June 1994.
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