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Lanzon hails team’s spirit after Under-19 Euro qualification

Niki Lanzon (centre) speaks to his players in Lodz. Photo: Timmy Cutugno

The Malta waterpolo U-19 team became the latest team to qualify for the European Championship finals as last weekend they managed to win all their matches in the qualifying tournament that was played in Lodz, Poland.

Niki Lanzon’s boys started the tournament with their work cut out as they knew that they needed to top the group if they were to progress to the final tournament given that there was only one qualifying spot as one of their teams in the group, Bulgaria were already handed a qualifying berth as hosts.

But that challenge failed to derail the Maltese youngsters who dominated the group with some impressive performances, securing three successive wins against Slovakia (15-7), Poland (11-4), and Bulgaria (16-10) and finishing top of Group C.

Coach Niki Lanzon told the Times of Malta that he was proud of the performances of his players and said that the great unity that existed in the team was crucial behind this success.

“I believe that we had very good performances,” Lanzon said.

“The players played as a very united group with every single member of our squad giving everything they could.

“The fact that we boast a team that is very fast in the water was a crucial factor behind the result we obtained as we took full advantage of this quality. To be honest, seeing how the team performed, it’s very difficult to find a negative element even though there is always a margin to improve.

“For me, the fact that every player played their heart out for the team was enough.”

The reward for such an impressive display is a chance to challenge the continent’s top teams at the continental finals in Burgas, Bulgaria, between September 1 and 7.

Lanzon has no doubt that if the team arrives for the tournament in their best physical condition they can bring home a very positive result.

“I firmly believe that this group of players has a great talent and I firmly believe that if they arrive for the tournament in a good physical condition in September we can get a very positive result,” said Lanzon.

“I think that this group of players has shown how important it is that when you are representing Malta you have to give your 100 per cent.

“The character of the players came to the fore during this tournament as when there were instances that we had players who were struggling with injuries they were still ready to go into the water and play for the team and that is very important.”

Proud president

On his part, ASA president Karl Izzo said that he could not be prouder of the Malta U-19 players after their exceptional showing in Poland.

“I am very proud of the players and the technical staff,” Izzo said.

“The team played some excellent waterpolo and showed great teamwork in the most difficult group out of all four where only the top team was to qualify given that Bulgaria were qualified as hosts country.

“This result adds to the excellent results achieved last summer by our youth selections and confirms that there is a very bright future for Maltese waterpolo.”

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