Under-21 side hosts Spain on Friday

The Malta Under-21 side locks horns with Spain in another match from Group C of the UEFA Under-21 Championship at the Centenary Stadium on Friday, kick-off at 20:45.

A daunting task for Malta against a very strong Spain side, in a fixture that coach Gilbert Agius is hoping will galvanize his players who must roll up their sleeves and rise to the occasion.

“Spain’s strength in the game is well documented, I really believe the fear factor will be kept aside during the 90 and my players stay fully focused and motivated, moreso vying to grab this opportunity of playing against individuals of a higher calibre with already vast experience at the international stage albeit their young age”.

Coach Gilbert Agius is moderately pleased with his side’s performances during matches in October window when his side went down narrowly 2-1 against Lithuania, before a 4-0 upset in Slovakia.

“This is a process, we are slowly moving towards this unified game philosophy we are trying to implement, this process shall be taken step by step but I believe we are on the right path in leading forward this group of players”.

Coach Agius conceded the fact that his team is yet inexperienced at this level facing fearful competition and a huge gulf compared with our opponents in this Group C, nonetheless pleased with the efforts and tenacity the boys are showing to further improve and thrive at this level.

He once again raised his concerns about the level of competition where most of his players are competing domestically.

“The majority of players in this group do have playing time, my biggest concern however is the level of competition, with some of them still restricted in the youth level, others in lower divisions”.

Coach Gilbert Agius is also facing a formation dilemma with his key forward players from previous outing in Slovakia both missing, with Alex Satariano back in the senior fold, Floriana’s Mattia Veselji out injured.

“I am totally upbeat that whoever plays in attack on Friday against Spain will give his best as this could be the right opportunity to showcase his skills and attributes in view of upcoming fixtures next year.

“Satariano will surely be missed, his contribution in the 90 minutes in Slovakia last month where he performed diligently for the team has aided us significantly, however it’s always a pleasure to see him (Satariano) and other players get to this point and lured to play with the senior side, Mattia (Veselji) sustained an injury in a youth league match with his club”.

Finally coach Gilbert Agius added that the provisional squad containing a total of 28 players all performed well during training over the past ten days, however accepted the fact that is always tough when it comes to trimming his squad and the selection process of his final 22 players for both matches ahead, the other being against Northern Ireland at Mourneview Park on Tuesday.

Final 22-man squad

GOALKEEPERS – Cain Formosa (San Ġwann FC), Amara Sylla (Birkirkara FC).

CENTRAL DEFENDERS – Adam Bradshaw (Balzan FC), Matthew Ellul (Hibernians FC), Christian Gauci (Valletta FC), Zean Leonardi (Pieta Hotspurs FC), Samuel Okoh (Pieta Hotspurs FC), Carlo Zammit Lonardelli (Sirens FC).

RIGHT WINGBACK – Aleandro Garzia (Floriana FC), Karl Mohnani (Swansea University).

LEFT WINGBACK – Nikolai Micallef (Ħamrun Spartans FC), Andreas Vella (Santa Lucia FC).

MIDFIELDERS – Ayrton Attard (Hibernians FC), Marcus Grima (Balzan FC), Gianluca Sciberras (Mosta FC), Jamie Sixsmith (St. Andrews FC).

OFFENSIVE PLAYERS – Leo Agius (KVC Westerlo), Jamie Carbone Jamie (Santa Lucia FC), Jake Engerer (Sliema Wanderers FC), Jake Ghio (Pieta Hotspurs FC), Bradley Sciberras (Floriana FC), Andrea Zammit (San Ġwann FC).