The Malta waterpolo national team open their adventure in the 2020 European Championships when they face Spain in their group opener at the Duna Arena in Budapest this afternoon (start: 1pm).
This is the third time that the national team is competing in the prestigious continental finals and while in the previous editions the main goal was that to avoid bottom spot in the competition, this time round there is optimism that the Maltese selection could achieve its best ever result in such championships.
In fact, the draw of the competition have been somewhat kind to the Malta team as while they were pitted against the Spaniards and hosts Hungary, two major powerhouses in world of waterpolo, they were also pitted against a Turkey team who are on a level par with Karl Izzo’s men.
Turkey turned out to be Malta’s major antagonists in the last two Euro editions as both times the Maltese faced the Turks in the play-off to avoid bottom spot.
Thus, it’s no surprise that much of the focus of the national players is on Thurday’s meeting with the Turks given that a win would ensure the team would be assured of their best result in these championships as it would guaranteed them to play in the positional play-offs between the ninth and 12th position.
With this in mind, Izzo admitted that he is seriously considering using all his 13-man squad for today’s match to ensure the team plays the match against Spain in optimal physical condition.
“We are really looking forward to start this adventure,” coach Izzo told the Times of Malta yesterday.
“We have a very tough start as we are up against a strong Spain team who have already secured their place in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“With our chances of winning the match very slim, it’s only logical that we will rotate the squad through the entire of the match to ensure we preserve our energy levels.
“The atmosphere is very positive and we are all focused on the job ahead.”
Izzo said that the main goal against Spain today will be to try and keep the result as respectable as possible and highlighted the importance of preserving possession in attack.
“Spain play a very fast game and possess some pacey swimmers so we need to be very cautious when in possession,” the Malta coach said.
“The new rules have made the game faster and it suits Spain’s style of play. The most important thing for us is to ensure that we keep possession when in attack as Spain are very lethal in their transition and are capable of causing us a lot of damage if we throw away possession.”
The Malta coach admitted that he is hopeful his players can produce a sound performance against Spain as it would surely be the right psychological boost ahead of the match against Turkey.
“We have prepared for these championships in the best possible way,” Izzo said.
“The players cannot give me more than they have already done and we are in our best form.
“Obviously a commendable performance against Spain would be the best possible preparation for the match against Turkey as it would give the players a lot of belief ahead of our must-win match against Turkey on Thursday.”