Saturday’s 2018 World Cup qualifying draw has thrown up plenty of interesting challenges for the Scotland National Team – none more so than our first Group F opponents Malta.

Scotland will kick-off their 2018 campaign at Malta’s Ta’ Qali Stadium on Sunday 4 September 2016, with the return tie at Hampden exactly one year later.

The Mediterranean islanders – with a population of just over 445k – were the first country to be drawn into Group F and have a long history in the game, claiming some credible results that contrast their low ranking.

FIFA Ranking
158 (reached a historic high of 66 in 1994)

Home Ground
Ta’ Qali Stadium, Attard, Malta

The Maltese Football Association were founded in 1900 and first entered qualification for the World Cup in 1974. Famous results in the 70s and 80s include wins over Greece and Iceland and a 0-0 draw with West Germany in 1979 (eventual winners of Euro 1980).

Malta’s knack for unsettling the bigger nations has continued in recent times, holding Switzerland, Croatia and Turkey to credible draws within the past 10 years. They also recorded a comfortable 2-0 win over fellow Group F rivals Lithuania in June.

Star Player
Michael Mifsud
Malta’s all-time record goalscorer with 39 strikes in 110 games for the national team and arguably the country’s finest footballing export. Back playing in Malta with Sliema Wanderers, Mifsud has played all over the world with spells at 1. FC Kaiserslautern, Lillestrom and Melbourne Heart. He scored 16 goals whilst playing at Coventry City from 2007 to 2009 including two goals against Manchester United in the 2007-08 League Cup.

Scotland have beaten Malta in all three previous meetings, most recently in 1997 when a Darren Jackson double sealed a hard-fought 3-2 win at the Ta ‘Qali. The two countries shared a qualifying group for the 1994 World Cup, with Scotland claiming a 3-0 win at Ibrox and a 2-0 win in the return tie.

Current head coach Pietro Ghedin has a chequered history against Scotland. His first game as Malta coach – during a previous spell as manager in 1993 – was in the 2-0 defeat to Scotland. Although he did gain revenge, of sorts, whilst manager of the Italian Women’s team when he helped beat Scotland Women 2-0 in the 2010 Cyprus Cup.