Head coach Karl Izzo and his U-17 national squad returned home yesterday following their triumph in the EU Nations Tournament, in Vienna, last weekend.
On Sunday, Malta U-17 produced another spirited performance to overcome South Africa 11-10 in a tense final and secure their third successive title in the prestigious annual tournament, this year contested by 12 teams.
Izzo was delighted with the success and contribution of his players for the majority of whom this was their first appearance on the international scene.
“I’m really proud of these young players, some of whom were making their debut at this level,” Izzo told Times of Malta yesterday.
“It was a merited success. We always believed in our players and they never stopped trying despite playing against teams from much bigger nations.
Probably, our determination saw us through in the end against South Africa
“Against South Africa, in particular, the side showed great maturity. We were behind for long spells throughout the final but they kept believing that they could turn the match around.
“Our winning card was the ability to keep hold of our nerves in the final and the players crowned a strong overall showing in Vienna with this gold medal which means a lot to us and the ASA.”
Izzo reckons the EU Nations Tournament is just the first step for the U-17 selection. He now hopes that the association will receive much-needed funding to give the players coming up more international exposure.
“This is a very promising group we have at this level,” Izzo said.
“Obviously, they have to work hard to reach the same levels of the senior squad but they are showing great desire to learn and make progress and that is key in their development.
“I hope that the association will be in a position to provide more opportunities to these players as that is the only way for them to improve.”
Izzo said their goal was to make sure the senior squad will have a larger pool of players to bank on in future.
“The signs are very encouraging as both U-17 and U-19 squads have already proven themselves to be very competitive,” Izzo said.
“I always emphasise on the importance of having young players coming through and we never hesitated to give them a chance in bigger competitions, as happened in the European Championships finals in Belgrade this year.
“It’s our duty to ensure that promising players are given the right means to maximise their potential,” Izzo added.
Jacob Sciberras was among the major protagonists for the U-17s in Vienna last week.
The Sirens ASC player is one to look at for the future after netting 17 goals and named best player of the competition.
“The U-17s won this tournament before but doing it a third time is great,” Sciberras said.
“We played against very strong teams, such as Poland and South Africa. However, we were never overwhelmed and kept fighting for each other during matches. Probably, our determination saw us through in the end against South Africa.
“I am really happy with my contribution and this medal gives me added motivation to train harder and become a better player.”
1. Malta, 2. South Africa, 3. Poland, 4. Wales, 5. Austria A, 6. England, 7. Switzerland, 8. Scotland, 9. Czech Republic, 10. Denmark, 11. Ireland, 12. Austria B.
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