8th July 2015
This was the first time for Malta to have the opportunity to participate in the FIFPro tournament. The game versus France was played at the Hamrun Ground on the 5th of July.
While Malta's squad may have been considered little more than an afterthought to the French team, they came into the match confident they could hold their own, and even exert their will.
The French began the match on the attack but the Maltese defence held firm, expelling the French strikers from the penalty area and forcing longer shots. The French continued to press, determined to get the equalizer. At half time however they still faced a deficit and began to show slight frustration.
The French team came out of the half as if on fire, peppering the Malta area with crosses and hardly allowing the hosts over halfway. But still no goal. Frustration seemed to reach a boiling point and hope was close to fading until a beautiful curling shot from Cyril Dreyer, a French substitute, took France level. Their spirits soared and the French continued their push, though this time it was to win the game completely.
Malta showed their bravery and steadily defended, taking the game into penalties where, nominally, both teams had equal chances.
Penalties turned out to be a close affair as well with the first ten shots being scored. Unfortunately, on the 11th and sixth round of shots, Malta missed wide, giving France the opportunity to clinch. After a hard fought and exhausting match, the decisive penalty was hit, booking France a place in the last eight and a match against Slovenia this weekend.
While heartbreak may have abounded in the plethora of close contests, these games demonstrated what the FIFPro Tournament is all about- the players. Players from all sides showed their talents and demonstrated why they should be picked up by interested clubs. While not every team could win, a good outcome for many players is possible and judging from the first full weekend of the FIFPro Tournament, beneficial outcomes a plenty may be the legacy of this unfolding tournament.
The Final eight games will be played on the 10 and 11 July.