Preparations for tonight’s Malta-England encounter have been going on at Ta’ Qali for the past hours, giving the national stadium a totally different look. At about 7.00 this morning the South End Core started fixing banners on the side of the ground hosting Malta’s supporters.
Preparations by the South End Core have been in hand for a number of days for this first round qualification game for the 2018 World Cup. Maltese supporters are expected to pack the stadium well before the match, with flags, banners and other enthusiasm-generating paraphernalia.
A somewhat unique atmosphere is expected tonight, with some 18,000 spectators filling every available spot, among them 8,000 supporters of the England team who have flown over for the occasion.
The South End Core is encouraging Maltese supporters attenting tonight’s match to wear red outfits. Expectations for this match have been high, ever since the qualification draws were announced, and tickets were snapped up straight away and have been sold out for over a month.
This is the fifth official game between the two sides. The respective national teams have already played the first leg at Wembley Stadium on 8 October, with the game ending in a 2-0 victory for the England side.
Both sides had met in the European Championships in 1971 with the England team beating the local side 1-0 in Malta, and 5-0 on their home ground. In the year 2,000 the England team won a friendly match in Malta with a 2-1 score, in a dramatic game in which the Maltese side had missed a penalty.
Tonight’s match kicks off at 20:45, and will be played under strict security. The direct transmission on TVM2 will start at 19:30.