The Malta U21 team face Slovakia in the penultimate Group C match on Friday evening (kick-off: 6.30pm).
The Maltese youngsters are third in the standings following Russia’s exclusion from the competition due to the country’s invasion of Ukraine.
Malta Under-21 coach Gilbert Agius outlined the journey so far and the work he carried out with a number of young players to an established place in the domestic league and a place in the national team set-up.
Adam Magri Overend and Mattia Veselji are already in the senior fold, having started this competition with the U21 and are still eligible in this category.
“This is all their credit, I’m not here to take plaudits, but primarily to help this group of players in their development and to impose themselves in our unified game philosophy,” Agius said.
“I’m sure their tenacity in performing well and improving will ultimately reap benefits going forward in their pursuit to join others who have already made the step-up”.
As regards, Slovakia, tonight’s opponents, Agius said: “Slovakia are a solid side who are probably coming here mindful of their possibilities of qualifying therefore they would not want any slip-ups.
“However, my players have trained well, we have some players missing through injury, but I’m pretty confident we will perform well in the match”.
Malta are currently on six points, level on points with Lithuania and Northern Ireland, nevertheless, this is not a concern for coach Agius or something that could steer pressure inside the camp.
“The final standings must be looked at when the competition is over, we are fully concentrated at the moment on these two tough matches coming up,” Agius said.
“We are pleased with the total number of points attained so far in this Group C. We would love to increase that tally, but our overriding commitment at the moment is to strongly prepare this crop of players to perform at their very best and put to practice in the 90 minutes.
“All the hard work they have executed over the last days since we convened in this June window.”
MALTA U-21 SQUAD
Goalkeepers: Matthias Debono (Ħamrun Spartans FC), Amara Sylla (Birkirkara FC).
Defenders: Christian Gauci (Valletta), Zean Leonardi (Pieta’ Hotspurs), Glenn Mifsud (Żebbuġ), James Vella (San Ġwann), Carlo Zammit Lonardelli (Sirens).
Midfielders: Ayrton Attard (Hibernians), Jean-Paul Attard (Gżira United), Adam Bradshaw (Balzan), Aleandro Garzia (Floriana), Jake Ghio (Pieta’ Hotspurs FC), Marcus Grima (Balzan), Sheldon Mackay (Valletta), Andreas Vella (Floriana).
Forwards: Matthew Debattista (Melita), Shaun Dimech (Valletta FC), Joshua Micallef (Luqa SA), Dale Mifsud (San Ġwann), Bradley Sciberras (Floriana), Joseph Zammit (Nadur Youngsters FC), Andrea Zammit (Valletta FC).
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