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Cirovic wants big performance for Malta in must-win Slovenia match

Malta face Slovenia in the European Championships on Thursday. Photo: LEN

The Malta waterpolo national team is facing arguably its most important match at the European Championship finals when they face Slovenia in the positional play-offs between the 13th and 16th place in Dubrovnik.

While the national team had already rewritten its history books in the continental finals when they notched their first-ever victory in the group stage when overcoming Israel 13-11, Thursday’s match can put the team within one win away from achieving their best-ever placing in the tournament.

Two years, ago Malta attained its best placing when finishing 14th when they lost to Germany in the play-off for 13th place.

A win tonight will put the team in the play-off for the second successive edition with a chance to go one better than the 2022 national selection.

On Tuesday, Malta suffered a comprehensive 21-4 defeat to Serbia in Zagreb in the final Group C match. The team’s performance in the opening session left much to be desired and drew the ire of coach Milan Cirovic.

The Montenegrin coach wants his players to go into Thursday’s match all guns blazing against Slovenia as he doesn’t want his team to contest the play-off to avoid bottom place in the tournament.

“We are heading into the match against Slovenia with everything we have,” Cirovic told the Times of Malta.

“This is the biggest and most important match that we are playing in this tournament and we have no plans to end up playing the play-off to avoid bottom place in the group.

“Against Serbia I had every right to be very angry with the approach taken at the start of the match. We are playing against the Olympic champions and there is no blood in the pool.

“I don’t know when my players will have the chance to compete with such names again, I told them that this might be their last chance to show that they can play against the best.”

For the match against Serbia, Cirovic was without four key players as Mark Castillo was serving the first of a two-match ban. On the other hand, Sam Gialanze and Nicolas Bugelli were out with fever while Liam Galea was struggling with a back injury.

For this next match, Cirovic will have Bugelli and Galea back in the fray but Gialanze is still out while Castillo will still be out completing his second banned match.

Cirovic is keen on seeing his team finally produce a top performance in the tournament and hopes that they can produce the goods against Slovenia.

“This young and talented team owes itself an excellent game in this competition,” Cirovic said.

“I sincerely hope that it will be tomorrow against Slovenia. Unfortunately, Gialanze is out of the match but Bugelli is recovering and Galea will hopefully be ready to play.

“I want my players to show that this Maltese team has a big heart.”

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