The Malta Under-21 side will play their first away in Group B of the UEFA Under-21 Championship qualifying round, rubbing shoulders with Scotland at Fir Park in Motherwell on Tuesday.
Speaking ahead of this match, coach Ivan Woods summed up the home match against Belgium on Friday, praising the progress by his players when matched with opening fixtures in this cycle last month, confronted with the mammoth task of facing daunting Spain when domestic leagues were not yet commenced.
“On Friday, my players performed superbly, they were disciplined, had great collective effort, positive attitude, all players in action unfazed by the magnitude of the task of having to face another powerful side like Belgium”.
Woods was pleased with the fitness level of his players, saying the physical improvement was noted in the 90 minutes against Belgium also baring in my mind the players enjoyed match practice which was missing in previous competition encounters in the September window.
“I’m pleased with the approach and level of performance by all the players, there are details and situations we have to improve, those details are ultimately significant in our aim of getting on the score sheet and record points on the board.”
Ivan Woods stressed his players were devastated after the match, they were firmly knowledgeable that the Belgium match could have easily resulted in a different outcome, therefore it is imperative to fine-tune, build on the many positives, and move on.
“The collective effort by all the players on Friday was impeccable, we must produce a similar style of play, with intensity, and positive transitions thus ensuring we remain solid defensively against Scotland.
Our opponents on Tuesday possess some good quality football players, they have just beaten Hungary 3-1 a few days ago.
The likes of fast and direct winger Ben Doak who is only seventeen and has already made his debut for none other than Liverpool, is surely the biggest threat they offer particularly in their attacking play.
The Malta U-21 coach added, “We know that we have a hard task on our hands, Scottish football is on a high, their senior team has just qualified for the European Championship, and these youngsters will surely be all guns blazing to emulate their senior counterparts.
“My players, on the other hand, must show personality, they should not be terrified by their opponents, they will be instructed to impose our game plan, our philosophy, all this might lead to errors, but we will surely apply our style of play come Tuesday.
Finally, Ivan Woods highlighted the importance of all 20 players for this Scotland game.
“Our energy level is different from the match on Friday against Belgium, therefore we will maximize the depth of our squad, all members of this 20-man squad have been selected because they all have an essential role in their duties for this Malta Under21 Team.
The Malta U-21 squad in Scotland is made up of:-
Goalkeepers – Dylan Ciappara (Mosta FC), Hugo Sacco (Eastern New Mexico University).
Defenders – Matthew Ellul (Żabbar St. Patrick FC), Zean Leonardi (Pieta’ Hotspurs FC), Mattias Ellul (Santa Lucia FC), Owen Spiteri (Floriana FC), Jake Vassallo (Mosta FC), Isaac Cutajar (Pieta’ Hotspurs FC).
Midfielders – Kurt Bondin (Żebbuġ Rangers FC), Daniel Letherby (Eastern New Mexico University), Andrew Borg (Gżira United FC), Gianluca Sciberras (Mosta FC), Aleandro Garzia (Floriana FC), Karl Mohnani (Melita FC), Nikolai Micallef (Naxxar Lions FC).
Forwards – Jamie Carbone (Santa Lucia FC), Alfie Bridgman (Eastbourne Borough), Mattia Veselji (Floriana FC), Andrea Zammit (Messina Calcio), Jake Engerer (Sliema Wanderers FC).