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‘Double motivation for Malta’ says Xuereb ahead of FIBA Games final

Malta's Nathan Xuereb rushes towards the hoop against Azerbaijan on Saturday. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

The FIBA Small Countries Games come to an end on Sunday as Malta face Armenia in the final (tip-off: 18.30).

For Malta, this has already proved to be an upgrade on the results of last year’s tournament in which they managed bronze in Ireland. In the case of Armenia, it was the return for a side that had withdrawn from last year’s tournament, as had Azerbaijan.

On home soil, Malta will be doubly motivated to win the Gold medal, while providing a spectacle for the local fans. Malta’s new starting point guard Nathan Xuereb told the Times of Malta this will be the goal for Sunday’s game.

“Motivation is double for Sunday as we are playing in our own country and we need to give a show to all those who will come to support us,” Xuereb said.

“The plan is to play with strength and defend well. We need to be who we are as a team and aim for gold.”

This week’s games have been the Gzira Athleta guard’s first commitment as the playmaker of the National Team. However, he has surpassed expectations, scoring double digits in the first two games, while receiving praise from his teammates for the confidence shown.

“It’s a big honour for me to represent Malta. I had a lot of confidence in the games that I played and I’m proud to have had all of my team behind me, supporting me,” Xuereb said, “Especially coach Alan and coach Roderick – they have always been there, especially during the hard times like today (Saturday).

“Having my captain beside me is something great and (David Bugeja) has always been pushing me since the first training session that we had.”

On Saturday, Malta saw through an intense fixture against fellow favourites Azerbaijan in the semifinals. Albeit a low-scoring game for both with a winning score of 59-52, one might call it a fair game with both sides’ best scorers out injured.

“Even though (Azerbaijan) were without Jordan Davis, they were still a tough nut to crack,” the 20-year-old said.

“We knew that they were going to be strong and we had some areas that we had to improve as a team and where we weren’t playing the basketball that we played the last two games. But with four minutes to go, we gave all our heart to win the game and we stuck together as a team.”

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