7 things you may not know about England's opponents Malta


England face Malta in a World Cup qualifier at Wembley on Saturday, and will be looking to put the turbulence of Sam Allardyce's departure behind them.

Here, we look at seven things you might not have known about their upcoming opponents. Can the Mediterranean side cause an upset?

1. Malta made things difficult last time

Emile Heskey celebrates scoring the winning goal - (Owen Humphreys/PA)
(Owen Humphreys/PA)

Malta have met England just once, and almost embarrassed a team containing Alan Shearer, Paul Scholes, David Beckham, and current caretaker boss Gareth Southgate.

Martin Keown gave Kevin Keegan's England the lead in the Euro 2000 warm-up game, but a Richard Wright own goal quickly levelled the scores. Defender Southgate made an appearance from the bench in the 59th minute before fellow substitute Emile Heskey (who else?) claimed a 75th-minute winner in a 2-1 victory.

2. Gambin will be gutted to miss this one

Barnet's Luke Gambin - (Scott Heavey/EMPICS Sport)
(Scott Heavey/EMPICS Sport)

Malta's Luke Gambin plays his club football just a couple of stops along the Jubilee Line from Wembley, but unfortunately for him he will have to sit out of the game against the country of his birth.

The Barnet winger, who won the first of his four caps against the Czech Republic in May, was sent off in the final minutes of last month's defeat to Scotland, meaning he was omitted from Pietro Ghedin's squad due to suspension.

3. Three islands v Three Lions

St Paul's Cathedral in Mdina - (John Walton/PA)
(John Walton/PA)

The country is an archipelago and consists of just three inhabited islands; Gozo, Comino and Malta. According to Malta's National Statistics Office, its population was 429,344 at the end of December 2014 - considerably smaller than England's figure of around 55 million.

No excuses for Southgate's men then.

4. Selection options severely limited

Malta's coach Pietro Ghedin - (Valentina Petrova/AP)
(Valentina Petrova/AP)

All but two of Malta's squad for the game play their club football in Malta, with the exceptions being forward Andre Schembri of Portuguese side Boavista, and defender Zach Muscat of Arezzo in Italy's third tier.

Coach Ghedin, an Italian, would have been aware of the small number of players to pick from following a previous spell in charge in the early 1990s. Fewer selection headaches, though, which we're sure he's delighted about.

5. It has a place called Clapham Junction

Clapham Junction train station - (Anthony Devlin/PA)
(Anthony Devlin/PA)

Clapham Junction is not only an extremely busy train station in south London, it is also the informal name given to Misrah Ghar il-Kbir, a prehistoric site in the west of Malta.

The place is best known for its "cart ruts" - a complex network of tracks gouged in the rock, which led to the nickname. Who knew?

6. Do Malta need a miracle?

Malta take on Scotland - (John Walton/PA)
(John Walton/PA)

Malta are hardly in fine form heading into this one; in fact they're in no form at all, having failed to win any of their previous 11 matches.

Their last victory was a 2-0 friendly success over Lithuania in June 2015, while you have to go back a further two years for their most recent competitive win - a 1-0 defeat of Armenia in qualifying for the 2014 World Cup. That triumph was the final game of a three-match winning run following friendly successes against Liechtenstein and Luxembourg.

7. It's home to "Popeye's Village"

Comedy actor Robin Williams, as Popeye, and Shelley Duvall as Olive Oil - (PA)

The first major film role of actor Robin Williams was the title character in 1980´s Popeye. Filming took place in Anchor Bay on the north-east coast of Malta and the film set remains a popular tourist attraction.

Popeye's Village - or Sweethaven as it is known in the film - is a collection of small wooden buildings, with visitors treated to boat rides, water trampolines and costumed characters. Malta will need to gobble up their spinach if they're to take anything away from Wembley, however.