Silvio Vella has called on his players to shift their positive attitude from the training pitch to the field when Malta U-21 host their counterparts from Belgium in a UEFA U-21 European championships qualifications, at the Centenary Stadium (kick-off: 5pm).
After seven matches played in Group 6, Malta are still seeking to remove off the zero from their point tally. However, doing so against Belgium who are currently joint-top with Sweden on 17 points, will prove difficult.
However, coach Vella was satisfied with what his players have shown throughout their training sessions and he is confident that his team can put an important display against a strong opponent.
“We are in the final stages of these qualifications and we are striving to round up our commitments on a positive note,” Vella told a press conference, yesterday.
“We profited from the extra break that the Malta FA provided us as we trained from Monday to Saturday together, to the contrary of previous experiences where sometimes we would gather together just three days prior to an international date.
“I am very happy with the players’ attitude as they trained very hard and are determined to challenge Belgium tomorrow (today).”
Speaking about Belgium’s threat, Vella explained how unlucky they were in the first round, when the Belgians emerged winners 2-1, as the Maltese had a disallowed goal two minutes from time.
However, the former Rabat Ajax coach, is aware of the improvement Belgium have done following that game and is expecting a tough test against them.
“After our encounter in the first round, Belgium improved a lot as they changed around five to six players and in fact they are head-to-head with Sweden at the top of our group,” Vella said.
Neil Tabone of Żejtun Corinthians won’t be available for Vella’s selection as he was dropped due to injury while Juan Carlos Corbalan and Joseph Mbong are currently in the Faroe Islands with the senior side, with the U-21 coach describing this situation as “important for the development of the Maltese players.”
Meanwhile, Jake Grech, who was part of the UEFA Nations League provisional list selected by Ray Farrugia, is relishing the opportunity to face some of the best youth talents across the Old Continent. “We are aware of the level of difficulty that such an appointment provides but we are looking forward to step on the field against a European heavyweight,” Grech said.
“Like Sweden, Belgium will surely be applying a high-intensity game with a lot of pressure and we made sure to be prepared for this with our technical staff.”
The Birkirkara midfielder has already featured 12 times for the U-21 selection, including once against Belgium in the previous qualification campaign when the Maltese lost 2-3 in stoppage-time, on home soil.
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