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Malta U-21 coach Agius eyes solid performance in Northern Ireland

The Malta Under-21 national team will complete their international commitments for 2021 today when they take on Northern Ireland at the Mourneview Park in Belfast (kick-off: 8.30pm).

The Malta youngsters come into the match on the back of last week’s 5-0 defeat to Spain but despite the heavy defeat suffered against the Spanish Armada, coach Agius is hopeful that his players will show the same intensity and organisation against Northern Ireland.

“Despite the 5-0 defeat against Spain on Friday, there were some notable points to take, particularly positive play in off the ball situation, we were compact and good defensive organisation.

Added to that, the physical condition of my players caught the eye, running tirelessly and playing their hearts out against a Spain side who was firing on all cylinders in terms of high tempo, pressing up the pitch and intensity of the match.”

“My players are recovering well ahead of the game on Tuesday. There is always a fatigue situation for us with travelling for matches abroad, but the spirit is high as we try to regroup as a unit, take all the positives, and bounce back strongly from the game against Spain on Friday.”

Opening victory

For the Malta U-21, a clash against Northern Ireland brings fond memories as the team cruised to a commanding 4-1 win at the Centenary Stadium in their group opener two months ago. And Agius said that he expects the Northern Irish to go out for retribution.

“It will surely be a physical match. They play direct football and strength is one of their biggest attributes. We know it will be a tough match possibly in awful weather conditions, we are also mindful that they (Northern Ireland) will be vying to build on their brilliant performance in their last outing only three days ago, when they build Lithuania 4-0,” he said.

Since their defeat against Malta, Northern Ireland have shown remarkable improvement and have only lost to the two top sides in the group, namely Russia and Spain.

“Northern Ireland have improved a lot since losing at the Centenary Stadium,” Agius said.

“They have been very solid since then, also winning in their matches over Slovakia and Lithuania, therefore we have to be at the top of our game, show mettle, avoid stupid mistakes, be more aggressive in our attacking play, and try to capitalise in our dead ball situations.

“All this could lead us to what we’re aiming for that is adding to our points tally in this group.”

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