(3-3, 4-3, 3-3, 0-1)
The Malta U-15 national team brought further success for Maltese waterpolo on Sunday after keeping France at bay to top Group C, one day after they captured qualification for the LEN Men’s European U-15 Waterpolo Championships 2021.
“I was optimistic that the boys could do it… hard work pays off,” Anthony Farrugia, the Malta coach told the Times of Malta.
“Full credit to the boys as it was not easy. Our preparations had been hampered by circumstances beyond our control.
“They had to battle an obvious lack of match practice as their last competitive match was in September of last year. So, the preparation in the past five weeks was intense, so our boys could be better tuned to the rigours of today’s game.”
Unfortunately, problems are not over for Farrugia with the boys now shifting focus on exams.
“Our players have to deal now with the extra pressure of sitting for their exams at the same time that they are due to travel to Oporto, making it very difficult for them to concentrate on all fronts and for us to prepare well for the competition,” said Farrugia.
“Today we enjoy this feat and as of Tuesday, we need to put our head together to come up with a solution,” he added.
The coach also showed his appreciation to others who made this feat possible.
“This success would have never been achieved without the constant help of the ASA especially that of secretary general Rita Azzopardi as well as a very big thank you to my coaching staff,” he said.
Farrugia sensed that Malta stood a fair chance of topping Group C and guarantee being seeded for the Championships in Oporto.
“Qualification was achieved against Slovenia but we had to go that next mile because people might start saying Slovenia was a weak opposition. Still, we scored 17 against them and today we showed our true mettle,” he insisted.
Spearheaded once again by goal-machine Jayden Cutajar, who netted a total of seven goals, Malta reached that objective with a credible 10-10 draw to finish top of the groug ahead of France on goal difference.
As the match unfolded the Malta-France tie turned out to be a balanced affair with the hosts holding a slender lead until the last session.
Malta had done well until early in the third session when the French opposition allowed Cutajar’s opportunism to increase the gap between the teams.
In third session, France made a great comeback as led by Audoin De Reviers, made it 9-8 in their favour.
“In those early stages of the third session, we were caught between the crosswinds of playing prudently to maximise their possession and going for more positive play,” Farrugia admitted.
Malta showed great battling qualities, which belied the age of their units, and fought back to take a 10-9 advantage in the penultimate session but in the end, had to share the spoils in a 10-10 draw.
D. Galea Mule, L. Dimech, J. Chircop, G. Bonavia, J. Cassar, D. Bugeja, Z. Cutajar Licari 1, J. Cutajar 7, E. Schembri 2, C. Cutajar, L. Montebello, E. Mallia, M. Brimmer.
E. Carrera, A. Hakik, P. Bourdeix, A. Goncalves, A. Mercier Chaplai 1, A. Monthorin 1, A. Mehdi, A. De Reviers 5, A. Poulain 1, M. Aissi, N. Nikolic 1, J. Novacek 1, M. Guyon.