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Malta coach Agius tells players to keep up standards against Ireland

Malta interim coach Gilbert Agius (right) addressing the news conference. Photo: Domenic Aquilina

Malta interim coach Gilbert Agius has urged the national team players to keep up the high standards set against Greece last week as they brace themselves for another tough test when facing Ireland in an international friendly on Sunday night at the National Stadium (kick-off: 8pm).

The national team drew a lot of plaudits in midweek when they came agonisingly close to upset Euro 2004 winners Greece as they had to settle for a 2-2 draw at the National Stadium.

Agius told the Times of Malta that he was delighted with the character shown by his players but warned them they needed to keep up the high standards they set against Greece if they are to secure another positive result against the Irish.

“We were delighted with the character shown by the players against Greece,” Agius told the Times of Malta.

“The players made huge sacrifices throughout the 90 minutes as they were facing a very strong team. We needed to be tactically very compact and the Maltese players surely left the field with their heads held high as they gave everything they had.

“Now after Greece we have another difficult test as we are facing Ireland. This is another team who like Greece normally qualify for major championships so that shows the difficult task awaiting us.

“From the analysis that we did, they play a completely different game to Greece. They are a very physical side who boast a group of players with a high level of dynamism. They play very direct football so it will be important that we show the same tactical organisation we displayed against the Greeks

“We need to repeat all the good things we did against the Greek and make sure we correct the deficiencies shown in that match.”

Against the Greeks, the Maltese players showed great personality when they were pressed by the Greeks and Agius said that proves that the players are getting increasingly confident in putting into practice the playing system they have been working on for the past three years.

“For us the game against Greece was an opportunity to continue the work done in the last 28 matches,” Agius said.

“For the past three years we have been trying to play in a playing system that was introduced by the national team technical staff, and the players have shown that with every match they play they are showing increased confidence.

“We were forced to make some changes during the match but despite that it had little effect on the team’s efficiency as whoever came on is used to the system as they have trained this playing style for a long time so when they were introduced as substitutes they knew exactly what they had to do and that earned the team much-needed stability which is great to have.”

For today’s friendly, Agius must wait on the fitness of three players who were forced to leave the pitch with an injury.

Defenders Steve Borg and Jean Borg and wing back Joseph Mbong are facing a race against time to be fit for the match.

Ferdinando Apap and Kurt Shaw are among the options Agius has if he is forced to make some changes in his three-man defence while Juan Corbalan will be hoping for a start after his bright substitute appearance against the Greeks.

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