The Malta Under-21 side is in for a difficult test on Friday as the team led by coach Silvio Vella hosts Belgium in another match from Group 1 of the UEFA Under-21 Championship qualifiers at the Hibernians Stadium, kick-off at 18:00.
The team had an excellent start in this qualifying campaign, collecting five points from the first five matches, all played away from home, holding Moldova in a goalless draw, defeating Latvia 2-1, losing 4-1 to the Czech Republic, holding Montenegro in a goalless draw and losing 2-0 to Belgium. However the first two home matches, played last March, were surrounded with controversy due to match-fixing attempts involving members of the Under-21 side. Malta lost 0-1 to Montenegro and 0-7 to the Czech Republic.
Coach Silvio Vella said that the team is now fully focussed on the game as the atmosphere within the squad returned back to normal. Should Malta obtain any positive results in the remaining matches, the team would obtain a record number of points but Vella warned that even after the game against Belgium, Latvia and Moldova would be no easy opponents although Malta had defeated Latvia and held Moldova in a draw in the away games. He promised the team will be well-prepared and the players will give their hundred percent.
The Malta Under-21 coach is well-aware of the strength of Friday’s opponents although they are currently second in the group on 12 points from six matches, on level points with Montenegro and eight behind leaders Czech Republic who however played eight matches. Addressing the media on Thursday, Vella said he believes they are the strongest side and although they lost to Montenegro in their last outing, they had the lion’s share of ball possession. He said that they will be all out to claim the three points in Malta before facing the Czech Republic in their next game.
Birkirkara defender Cain Attard said that the teams is well-prepared and if the players are tactically disciplined, the team could get a good result.He said that when facing such strong teams, the more you play better, the more you get confident. He said the players will be doing their best to take their chances.
Silvio Vella would not reveal the starting line-up but admitted that for the younger players like Myles Beerman, the most important thing for now is to gain experience. Vella said he had spoken with the player regarding his transfer from Manchester City to Rangers and said the player has a bright future ahead. He said Beerman is five to six years younger than the rest of the players in the Under-21 squad and since so far, he has only played at youth level, it was important for him to start gaining experience at a higher level.
Almost two thirds of the players in the current squad will be no longer eligible to play in the Under-21 competition after the end of this campaign. Silvio Vella said that there were already five players from this squad who made their debut for the senior team. He said that it was up to the players to prove themselves and show they deserve to play for the senior squad.