The Malta Under-21 national team faces another difficult task on Thursday as it hosts Sweden in a match from Group 6 of the UEFA Under-21 Championship qualifiers at the Centenary Stadium, kick-off at 17:30.
Malta lost the six matches played so far – Belgium, Cyprus, Hungary and Sweden away from home and against Turkey both at home and away.
Addressing a press conference on Wednesday, Silvio Vella said “We always go out to try and obtain a positive result. We are facing very strong teams. Sweden are challenging for top spot in the group along with Belgium. The race for first place is between them.”
“After Sweden, we meet Belgium in the next home qualifier and that tells you everything about the strength of this group. That said, we try to adopt the best plan for our team to cope with such opponents and our players always go out to give their 100 per cent.”
“Our aim is to be compact but when we get the ball, we try to get out of our defensive shell and push forward. We have shown that we can score goals even when the chips are down. Against Turkey, we were 4-1 down but we did not give up and managed to get another goal.”
Photo: Copyright © domenic aquilina
Vella hopes that Malta’s luck will change in their remaining four home qualifiers, starting with Thursday’s game against Sweden.
“We have been unlucky in this group, especially the opening matches. In the first match against Belgium, we were 2-0 down but pulled one back for 2-1 and then had a goal disallowed in the closing stages. There were also two games where we lost in added time. However, there have been many positives. We have lost but our performances in many games have been good.”
“And these players are being rewarded for their efforts as they are being called up to the senior squad. Our aim is to produce players who are ready for the national team.”
For this game, Vella welcomes back six players who were part of the senior squad for the training camp in Austria which featured friendly matches against Armenia and Georgia. Jake Grech, Joseph Mbong, Jurgen Degbariele and Dunstan Vella were all handed their senior team debut while Myles Beerman and Kyrian Nwoko, who had already played for the senior team earlier, were also included.
On the other hand, the Malta Under-21 coach could not count on the injured Matthew Guillaumier, Kurt Zammit, Aidan Friggieri and Conor Borg.
The players at his disposal are:
goalkeepers Jake Galea (Ħamrun Spartans); Matthew Grech (Floriana).
defenders Jean Borg (Valletta); Kurt Shaw (Sliema Wanderers); Karl Micallef (Ħamrun Spartans); Dunstan Vella (Hibernians); Neil Tabone (Żejtun Corinthians).
midfielders Juan Corbalan (Gżira United); Michele Sansone (Sliema Wanderers); Jake Grech (Birkirkara); Nikolai Muscat (Gżira United); Zachary Scerri (Gżira United); Christian Mercieca (Victoria Hotspurs); Zachary Brincat (Mosta).
forwards Jurgen Degabriele (Hibernians); Myles Beerman (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland); Joseph Mbong (Hibernians); Kyrian Nwoko (Valletta).