Izzo calls for focus ahead of key Slovenia clash The Malta waterpolo national team face their ‘most important’ fixture of the European Championships on Sunday morning when they take on Slovenia in the opening positional play-off in Split (start: 11.30am).
Malta coach Karl Izzo has been repeatedly highlighting this match as the most important fixture for his side as should they prevail against the strong Slovenians they will ensure a finish away from the bottom two places in the championships, as happened in their previous three participations.
The players head into this match in high spirits after their impressive showing against the more-quoted France on Friday, which saw the team still in contention for victory after the first three sessions.
“I was delighted with our performance against France,” Izzo told the Times of Malta.
“To play at the same level of a strong side like France for the first three sessions was a remarkable feat for my players who only succumbed in the fourth due to the more stringent full-pitch press operated by the French.
“However, we had our chances to win the match but missed some good opportunities and added to that we were not aided by some refereeing decisions that hurt a lot our hopes of an upset.”
Izzo said that the team’s focus is now on the match against Slovenia and said that it was going to be crucial to play a good defensive game against a stronger opponent.
“Our zonal defence has been very good so far and we need to maintain that high level against Slovenia if we are to have any hopes of an upset,” Izzo said.
“Goalkeeper Jake Tanti has been in inspirational form for us and we need to be very organised in our defence if we are to contain their talented forwards. They tend to play with a double centre so it’s important that we cover well our goal.
“I’m sure that our performance against France will inspire our players for such a tough match. It’s going to be a long match for us and we need to keep playing till the end irrespective of the result. We have a very united group of players, and that is mirrored in the excellent teamwork we are showing when we defend.
“One has to remember that we are playing with a new team here with experienced players like Matthew Zammit, Dino Zammit and Ben Plumpton gelling very well with the young members in the squad.
“I just hope that on Sunday we will be at our best to get the best possible result.”