The Malta Under-21 side hopes to bounce back after two heavy defeats to Turkey and Greece away from home as the team led by Ray ‘Zazu’ Farrugia takes on the Greeks in another match from Group 7 of the UEFA Under-21 Championship qualifying round at the National Stadium on Tuesday, kick-off at 16:00.
Malta was unlucky to lose 2-0 to Poland in June, suffering two goals in the dying minutes but last month, the team suffered two heavy defeats, losing 4-0 in Istanbul and 5-0 in Athens. However Farrugia could not field his best formation in these two matches, especially in the Greece clash when no less than six players were ruled out for one reason or another.
Addressing the media on Monday, Farrugia said that this was obviously a difficult game for Malta but although the team lost 5-0 in Athens, he believed Malta could get a positive result on Tuesday if the team were able to maintain full concentration throughout the ninety minutes. Farrugia said the team has been working hard especially over the past week and are looking forward for this game. He said the players learned from their mistakes and are now eager to do well.
The Under-21 coach said the players had committed several mistakes throughout the game and during the first half, the score could have easily been in our favour. However at the end, the team paid dearly for the mistakes committed. He said that the key to avoid such mistakes was simple – move abroad to play at a higher level while making sacrifices. He said that while our players play week in week out in a league where the pace of the game is slow to the extent that is sometimes called ‘walking football’, Under-21 players of other teams are already playing Champions League football or are playing in one of the top leagues in Europe. Farrugia said that one of the problems of our players is that we were making the life of our players too easy and therefore they are too relaxed and know no sacrifice.
In the three matches played so far, Farrugia said that against Poland the team was really unlucky to lose. He said that apart from the Turkey game, the team created several chances.
Zach Muscat and Bjorn Kristensen, who missed the last game, will be back for Tuesday’s game while Jean Paul Farrugia and Steve Pisani, who were not fully fit, have recovered completely. The only absence is that of goalkeeper Jurgen Borg who is ruled out injured and will be replaced by Yenz Cini.
The starting line-up will be: Yenz Cini, Christian Grech, Zach Muscat, Daniel Zerafa, Ryan Camenzuli, Bjorn Kristensen, Clyde Borg, Ayrton Azzopardi, Steve Pisani, Jurgen Pisani, Jean Paul Farrugia.
The other players at the disposal of Ray Farrugia are: Matthew Calleja Cremona, Matthew Tabone, Johann Bezzina, Brandon Muscat, Mark Spiteri, Daren Falzon, Lydon Micallef.
The match will be controlled by officials from Iceland – referee Thoroddur Hjaltalin, assisted by Askell Thor Gislason and Gylfi Mar Sigurdsson and fourth official Vilhjalmur Alvar Thorarinsson.
Photo: Copyright © domenic aquilina