Malta drawn with Belgium once again in UEFA Under-21 qualifiers

Malta was drawn with Sweden, Belgium, Turkey, Hungary and Cyprus in Group 6 of the 2019 UEFA European Under-21 Championship. The nine qualifying groups for the 2019 UEFA European Under-21 Championship in Italy and San Marino were decided by Thursday’s draw in Nyon. A record 54 teams will be involved, with the first matches taking place in late March – nearly three months before the 2017 finals in Poland.

Silvio Vella’s side was in the same group with Belgium in the last qualifiers and faced Cyprus in a friendly match in November. The qualifiers will be played between March 2017 and October 2018.

Holders Sweden, who will be defending their title at the 2017 finals in Poland, were also in Malta’s group in the qualifying round for both the 2013 and 2015 UEFA U-21 Championships.

Malta U-21 coach Silvio Vella, who attended the draw in Nyon along with team manager Jesmond Abela, told “Malta is always at a disadvantage at these draws as we are in pot six.

“It’s a difficult draw for us, the same as the last one. It’s true that we’re playing Belgium again, but if it was not Belgium we could have drawn another strong team.”

“On the plus side, we know Belgium quite well, even though the players at this level of international football change constantly, either because of the age limit or because they are promoted to the senior side.”

The nine group winners will qualify automatically for the finals which will be held in Italy and San Marino. The four runners-up with the best records against the teams first, third, fourth and fifth in their group will go into the play-offs and be drawn into two ties to decide the last pair of qualifiers.

Italy have a bye to the finals in summer 2019 but their co-hosts San Marino must qualify.

2019 Under-21 qualifying group stage draw
Group 1: Czech Republic, Croatia, Greece, Moldova, Belarus, San Marino
Group 2: Spain, Slovakia, Iceland, Albania, Estonia, Northern Ireland
Group 3: Denmark, Poland, Finland, Georgia, Lithuania, Faroe Islands
Group 4: England, Netherlands, Ukraine, Scotland, Latvia, Andorra
Group 5: Germany, Israel, Norway, Republic of Ireland, Azerbaijan, Kosovo
Group 6: Sweden, Belgium, Turkey, Hungary, Cyprus, Malta
Group 7: Serbia, Austria, Russia, FYR Macedonia, Armenia, Gibraltar
Group 8: Portugal, Switzerland, Romania, Wales, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Liechtenstein
Group 9: France, Slovenia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Luxembourg

Belgium vs Malta – March 27, 2017
Cyprus vs Malta – September 1, 2017
Hungary vs Malta – September 5, 2017
Sweden vs Malta – October 10, 2017
Malta vs Turkey – November 10, 2017
Turkey vs Malta – March 27, 2018
Malta vs Sweden – June 7, 2018
Malta vs Belgium – September 7, 2018
Malta vs Hungary – October 12, 2018
Malta vs Cyprus – October 16, 2018