It’s a common saying in football and in all sports that you’re only as good as your last performance, and that is one of the key elements that Malta Under-21 coach Gilbert Agius is trying to instil in his players ahead of this evening’s tough encounter against Russia in Khimki today (kick-off: 18.00).
The Malta U-21 youngsters head into the match against the Russians in high spirits following their impressive 4-1 win over the Northern Ireland on Friday with Mattia Veselji netting a brace with two other goals coming from Jake Engerer and Ayrton Attard.
On the other hand, Russia opened their Group C commitments with a heavy 4-1 defeat to Spain and will certainly look to bounce back in style with victory over Malta.
Still, Agius – without forgetting the boys’ achievement on Friday – wants the lads to momentarily forget this result and focus on the next encounter. He expects them to face Russia with a different approach and mentality.
“The match against Northern Ireland was a great day for us but it’s important to put it among our memories and focus on the match against Russia,” coach Gilbert Agius said.
“There are many aspects that make this match much more difficult. This is our second match in the space of four days and besides that, we had a very long trip despite the MFA’s best efforts to make it as comfortable as possible.
“On Sunday, we trained at 7.30am in the morning and we left Malta at 11am to arrive in Russia late at night. The players have now rested well but we still have to check the condition of some of them as they are not in the best shape.”
Agius explained that in the last few days they had worked hard to try and prepare the team in the best possible way
“Russia are a completely different kind of opponents to Northern Ireland… they are far stronger,” Agius said.
“We have seen their videos and analysed them well to make sure that we are prepared in the best possible way for the match.
“Added to that, we are going to play in very different weather conditions. From the intensive 90 minutes in 35 degrees on Friday at home to 5 degrees and chilly weather here in Moscow, where we play on natural grass.
“We had to check on the physical condition of a couple of players who suffered knocks in the win against Northern Ireland. We are monitoring the situation to ensure that we line up with the best possible eleven players at the Khimki Arena, when facing this Russian side who will be surely firing on all cylinders in the 90 minutes against us.
“No doubt, the match will be a different experience for the players and we will do the best we can to try and get the best possible result.”
Lithuania vs Spain 17.30
Russia vs Malta 18.00
N. Ireland vs Slovakia 20.30