Another away test against Ukraine for the U21 boys

Tuesday, September 10, 2019, 9:17
Ukraine boast a host of promising players, fresh from their recent feat when they were crowned Under-20 world champions just before summer, with 10 members of that title-winning side part of the U-21 group for Tuesday’s game against Malta.

The Malta U-21s are heading into the Ukraine match with a high morale after their goalless draw away to Northern Ireland in Ballymena. After a long journey to the Ukrainian town of Zaporozhye – venue for this match, the players and coaching staff are fully focused on the game on Tuesday.

A hectic MD-1 for the boys with some activation at the gym conducted by physical trainer Karl Attard and overseen by coaches Silvio Vella and Noel Turner, later in the day the official training session, preparing the boys for these challenging 90 minutes coming up at the Slavutich Arena which has a capacity of 12,000 spectators.

NORTHERN IRELAND DRAW

Looking back on Friday’s draw in Northern Ireland, coach Silvio Vella said: “The team showed determination and were focused throughout to avoid mistakes which, at this level, are usually costly. In the end, we reaped the benefits of the players’ efforts to obtain this uplifting result and our first point in the group.”

UKRAINE TEST ON TUESDAY

Speaking about the qualifier against Ukraine, Vella knows that his players can expect another tough test.

“All group 8 matches will be difficult for us, we know what we will be coming up against in this journey just started. Northern Ireland away was also hard as we faced a young physical side with players who are having their footballing education at clubs like Manchester United, Birmingham City and Celtic.

“From our end, there is a great team spirit in the dressing room, and my players are willing to improve and prove their worth at this level despite the difficulty of the task.

“The long trip to this town in Ukraine was not easy but that is behind us now, we had a positive activation session on Monday morning and later we will head to the match venue (the Slavutich Arena) for the official training session. As I always say, we only stand a chance against these football giants if we stay positive, composed and avoid mistakes.

“Our opponents are really strong. On Friday they suffered an unexpected 2-0 home defeat to Finland, a surprising result as Ukraine dominated the game but were unlucky in front of goal.”

TEAM EFFORT

On Friday at the Ballymena Showgrounds, there were a number of outstanding performers for Malta but coach Vella is adamant that the collectiveness of this group of players is the key to these positive results. Friday’s draw was the third positive competition result on the trot for this Malta Under-21 team following the 2-1 win over Hungary and the 1-1 draw against Cyprus at the back end of the last competition. In between, there were also positive friendly results with a 2-1 win over Turkmenistan, and a 0-0 stalemate against Bosnia & Herzegovina on home soil before summer.

Vella stressed: “These type of games at international level require a significant physical and mental effort. When we obtain positive results, it’s not only down to individuals but a collective effort.

“Good results at this Under-21 level reward our efforts as Under-21 coaching staff but not only us. This group of players have been, from a very young age, raising their standards and working hard with other Malta FA Technical Centre coaches at junior level representing Malta.

“The cycle continues and like we have done with other players who are now established with the senior national team, our target is to help these players maintain their development and flourish as they strive to reach their ultimate aim of representing their country at senior level.”





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