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Balzan’s Borg handed first call-up

Australian-born wing-back Jacob Borg was handed his first call-up by national coach Pietro Ghedin for tomorrow’s friendly against Northern Ireland at the National Stadium.

The match will be the two teams’ first international appointment for 2013 and is being staged ahead of the upcoming World Cup double header against Bulgaria (away, March 22) and Italy (home, March 26).

Borg, 21, seems to have left a positive impression on Ghedin following a series of solid displays for Balzan FC during his first season in the BOV Premier League since leaving Australia last summer.

Borg, who represented Australia at youth level, is one of four changes effected by the Malta coach from November’s 1-0 friendly victory over Liechtenstein in Vaduz.

Team captain Michael Mifsud and winger Daniel Bogdanovic, who both missed the trip to Vaduz, were both handed a recall but there was no place for three other Valletta players – midfielders Roderick Briffa, Ryan Fenech and defender Jonathan Caruana. Birkirkara defender Joseph Zerafa was included in the list but his club team-mate Rowen Muscat missed out.

Meanwhile, Malta U-21 coach Ray Farrugia has also selected a squad of 18 players for tomorrow’s friendly against Austria at the Hibs Stadium.

Farrugia is keen to have a look at a host of new players as he looks to finalise his plans for the Euro Championship Group 7 qualifiers which get under way on June 7 with a trip to Poland.

N. Ireland changes

Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill has been forced to make changes to his squad for the friendly in Malta after several players withdrew through injury.

Goalkeepers Roy Carroll (back) and Trevor Carson (broken finger), defensive duo Ryan McGivern (hamstring) and Ryan McLaughlin (calf), midfielder Oliver Norwood (foot) and striker Jamie Ward (hamstring) have all pulled out because of concerns over their fitness.

As a result, Ipswich midfielder Josh Carson, Aberdeen striker Josh Magennis and Derry City goalkeeper Gerard Doherty have been called up as replacements.

O’Neill is confident the new arrivals will be able to do the business tomorrow.

“I am obviously very disappointed at losing the guys but very happy with the new call-ups,” he said.

“This gives me an opportunity to see them over the coming days in training. We have a very young squad but it is nice to have the experienced players with us for the game in Malta.”

Ghedin’s selection

Goalkeepers: J. Haber (Birkirkara), A. Hogg (Enosis).

Defenders: A. Agius (Latina), J. Borg (Balzan), R. Camilleri (Hibs), L. Dimech (Valletta), C. Failla (Hibs), A. Muscat (Sliema), J. Zerafa (Birkirkara).

Midfielders: S. Bajada (Sliema), P. Fenech (Birkirkara), E. Herrera (Birkirkara), G. Sciberras (Birkirkara).

Forwards: D. Bogdanovic (Valletta), A. Cohen (Hibs), M. Mifsud (Valletta), A. Schembri (Omonia Nicosia), T. Vella (Ħamrun Spartans).

Malta U-21

Goalkeepers: Y. Cini (Valletta), J.M. Vella (Vittoriosa).

Defenders: S. Borg (Floriana), C. Grech (Pietà Hotspurs), Z. Muscat (Birkirkara), R. Sammut (Tarxien), M. Tabone (Vittoriosa Stars).

Midfielders: A. Azzopardi (Hibs), J. Bezzina (Hibs), C. Borg (Floriana), B. Farrugia (Floriana), B. Kristensen (Hibes), R. Scicluna (Birkirkara), P. Xuereb (San Ġwann).

Forwards: D. Falzon (Naxxar), J.P. Farrugia (Hibs), L. Micallef (Vittoriosa), S. Pisani (Floriana).

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