The big day is nearly upon us, the first fixture of the Euro 2020 qualifiers. A sense of fresh optimism, and a light of hope falls upon us, as the Faroe Islands battle to finally qualify for a major tournament. Our first opponents in qualifying is away to Malta on Saturday, ranked 182 in the world. Needless to say (but we’ll say it anyway), this fixtures poses the Faroe Islands most realistic chance of an away victory. And maybe for a brief spectacular moment, we can top a group containing the likes of Spain, Sweden and Norway (we can all dare to dream!!).
Before we get ahead of ourselves, it must be noted that Malta are no pushovers, and in fact in our last fixture we drew 1-1 with them (November 2018). They also have some exciting young talent coming through, such as Kyrain Nwoko, Joesph Mbong and Juan Carlos Corbalan, and there is expectancy for the nation to progress in years to come.
However in the present day, the Malta team is an ageing one, and legendary stalwarts like inspirational captain and all-time top goalscorer Michael Misfud (37), goalkeeper Justin Haber (37) and commanding defender Andrei Agius (32) can’t go on forever. And in this is what lies Maltese footballs biggest problem. They have several promising youngsters, and accomplished veterans, but few quality footballers in their so called ‘prime years’ between the ages of 24 and 30, bar possibly Zach and Rowan Muscat. And as a result, this is a side in a transitional phase in its proud history.
The 20-man Faroe squad was announced last week, barring Sonni Nattestad and Meinhard Olsen, was probably the strongest group of players available to the nation at this moment in time. Taking this into account, below is the line-up I would pick for the fixture:
As is evident from my starting 11, I have opted for a attacking line-up and tactics. As mentioned above, I believe that this fixtures is our most realistic chance of an away victory in this group, and as a result allows us the freedom to select a more attack minded set-up than other fixtures would. Anything less than a win would feel like a disappointment, so a attacking structure could create a commanding flow and balance in the Faroese favour.
It has been proven in previous games, the Faroe Island team causes the most problems when they are allowed to play free-flowing, direct, quick tempo football, especially through gifted technical players such as Hendriksson, Edmundsson and Hansson. A fixture like this should allow such players the time and space to dictate the play in such a way. And this line-up would give them the means to do so.
I would make the attacking front line of Edmundsson, Bartalsstovu and Shaki Joensen fluid, so they can all interchange positions, something they are all capable of doing, and in doing so stretching the ageing Maltese back-line and create more spaces and gaps to penetrate. This would especially be dangerous against Malta, as they tend to play with a back three. This combined with the ample size of the Maltese pitch, means that the ability to use that to the Faroese benefit, could be a crucial tool.
As shown in the Nation Leagues fixtures, Shaki Joensen can be a dangerous player when he finds the space to punish defenses. The ability of Bartalsstovu and Shaki Joensen to be able to cut in on there favoured foot on there flanks is also a huge advantage for the side. It is always a tough decision to choose between Bartalsstovu and Vatnhamar, but I felt in such a game and fluid structure, the luxury of having a player like Bartalsstovu is afforded.
I personally think Edmundsson would suit the role behind the striker more, as it means less pressure to lead the line, and more freedom to roam, create pockets, and as our star man be the incisive player. Thomsen has shown himself to be a physical battler, and a major strength of his is his link up play, and his ability to bring others into the game, a key attribute in this system.
Hansson and Hendriksson possess the best passing ability, and can be a key link between attack. These two also have the best stamina and energy in the group, and as a result can press and squeeze the opposition in the middle of the park when the ball is in transition, meaning the potential of counter attacks and quick turnover is possible.
In terms of the back four the ever dependable Davidsen at left back is a must, with his vital quality in getting up and down the left channel so effectively. Færø as a like for like replacement for Nattestad seems the most plausible, alongside captain Gregersen, and at right back I would personally choose the versatile Rólantsson. I would put him there as I feel as potentially the fastest Faroese player. He can deal with any pace down his wings, such as from Nwoko or Mbong, and he also has the ability to bomb up and down the right flank. I would finally choose consistent number one Nielsen in goal.
Against a decent ball playing side like Malta, where they pride themselves on every player having a decent technical ability, a win is by no means assured, but if we as a team adopt a high tempo, energy and physical contest, that should hopefully see the Faroe Islands record a famous away victory.