Final test for the Malta U-21 team on Tuesday as they host Finland in their last UEFA U-21 European Championship Group 8 Qualifier on Tuesday afternoon at the Centenary Stadium (kick-off: 15.00).
The game against Finland will mark the end the U-21 experience for most of this current squad as players born in 1998 and 1999 will not be eligible to play at this level in the next qualifying competition. Despite the difficulties, it has been a useful campaign for the team with more players gaining international experience at this level.
The Malta U-21 team are coming from a difficult match against Ukraine who won 4-1 but coach Silvio Vella has taken many positives from his side’s performance.
“The result on Friday was harsh and unfair on my players,” Vella said. “The boys fought hard, kept possession and showed resilience, coming close to levelling the score more than once, also hitting the crossbar in the first half. However, these teams are very clinical and Ukraine scored two late goals, taking advantage of swift transitions.”
The Malta U-21 team coach has no doubt that his players will be doing their utmost to improve their performance.
“The attitude has always been good, we learn from our mistakes,” Vella said. “The players are showing improvement and their attitude and commitment can’t be faulted during the 90 minutes against Ukraine.
“We must keep working hard, take the positives from the Ukraine match and concentrate on the last game against Finland.”
Speaking about Tuesday’s opponents, Vella said: “Finland are a very strong side and like all Scandinavian teams, their physical levels are very high. They have made significant improvement in recent years and Tuesday’s match will be another stern test for us.
“Our boys are not disheartened and will be vying to end this current campaign with a positive performance and possibly also obtain some points”, Vella concluded.
END OF COMPETITION
Vella summed up proceedings at the end of the current competition. “This group was very tough… Northern Ireland, who are not rated as highly as the other opponents, have also obtained some good results.
“Clearly, the COVID-19 situation this year didn’t help, the games this week were rescheduled from last March and in these final six matches in this current season we faced many problems but there have also been plenty of positives. I’m pleased, especially with the improvement of the younger players who have been preparing themselves tirelessly for next year’s competition.”
MALTA U-21 SQUAD
GOALKEEPERS – Cain Formosa (San Ġwann), Timothy Aquilina (Sliema Wanderers), Rashed Al-Tumi (Arzachena, Italy).
DEFENDERS – Gary Camilleri (Balzan), Nicholas Pulis (Valletta), David Xuereb (Senglea Athletic), Matthew Ellul (Hibernians), Carlo Zammit Lonardelli (Fidelis Andria, Italy).
MIDFIELDERS – Zachary Grech (Hibernians), Darren Borg (Ħamrun Spartans), Myles Beerman (Sliema Wanderers), Andreas Vella (Santa Lucia), Jamie Zerafa (Santa Lucia), Marcus Grima (Balzan), Ayrton Attard (Hibernians), Bradley Sciberras (Marsaxlokk).
FORWARDS – Aidan Friggieri (Gudja United), Sebastian Grech (Sliema Wanderers), James Scicluna (PietàHotspurs), Omar Elouni (Gżira United), Andrea Zammit (San Ġwann), Andrei Spiteri (Mosta), Jan Busuttil (Floriana).