Malta Football Association
U-21 coach upbeat but calls for focus in N. Ireland match
Sep 5, 2019
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Malta Under-21 coach Silvio Vella.
Malta Under-21 coach Silvio Vella.

It is MD-1 for the Malta Under-21s on Thursday as a new competition gets under way with the first test at the Ballymena Showgrounds on Friday for our team against Northern Ireland in a Group 8 match from the UEFA U-21 Championship qualifying campaign.

The Malta U-21 team will have a training session at the match venue this evening following a rigorous double session on Wednesday with some activation in the morning and the second where the focus was more on the tactical aspect.


Malta Under-21 coach Silvio Vella is relishing this new experience after 10 months of preparations for the U-21 squad which includes several new players.


“Our preparation work has been good, we've played five friendlies, two in Albania and another two in Turkey, before holding Bosnia Herzegovina to a goalless draw on home soil just before summer to make it three home matches in succession undefeated," Vella said.


"Players are in good spirits but now focus is crucial. We must avoid basic mistakes, keep our tactical shape and strive to perform our duties well in our transitional play."


Vella added: "Our opponents are very strong, their level is comparable to our last friendly opponents, Kosovo and Bosnia, where we showed great commitment and only conceded once in two games.


"We certainly have a lot of respect for Northern Ireland, who beat reigning U-21 European champions Spain, but that will not hold us back from pursuing a positive result at the start of this new competition."



Vella declared himself pleased with the amount of playing time the majority of his U-21 players are getting in the domestic competitions.


“Only two matchdays have been played in the domestic season so far but I have noticed that this group of players have received more playing opportunities. So far, the moves for most of the players in our squad are proving beneficial in terms of game time at club level and this is a positive factor," the Malta Under-21 coach said.




Meanwhile, Northern Ireland will be eyeing a strong start to this campaign, relying on players who play for top English Premier League clubs. Manchester United’s Ethan Galbraith is aiming for his fourth cap with his country at U-21 level.


The most representative player in this Northern Irish squad for tomorrow’s game is Derry City forward David Parkhouse, while a lot is being said about highly-rated Celtic goalkeeper Conor Hazard who is likely to defend the Irish goal for coach Ian Baraclough’s side on Friday against Malta, determined that the class of 2019 can match and better the achievements of their predecessors.


“Our last campaign was absolutely amazing but we are looking to improve, we want to start well against Malta, deliver a really strong performance and get a win on the board early on," Hazard was quoted as saying.

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