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We need to be tactically disciplined against Belgium, says Malta U-21 coach Woods

Malta U-21 coach Ivan Woods leads the team's final training session in Belgium. Photo: MFA

Malta U-21 coach Ivan Woods has urged his team to keep their tactical shape when they face Belgium in a European Championship qualifier in Leuven tonight (kick-off: 8pm).

This will be the second meeting between these two countries in this qualifying campaign, with the Belgians needing late goals to secure a 2-0 win at the Tony Bezzina Stadium last year.

The team is still searching for its first points in this daunting cycle albeit progress has been noted since the opening group match and a 6-0 heavy defeat against Spain.

The match against Belgium comes four months since the previous international window, and coach Woods affirmed that over this period he and his technical staff followed all his players and gauge their progress in the main domestic competitions.

“This international window has been a short one and therefore rather problematic for us as technical staff to assess the overall condition of all our players,” Woods said.

“I believe this is the best crop that is the most fitting to represent their country at the best of their abilities. We are trying to maximise this short period we have been together, to be well prepared for match ahead on Thursday.”

A major novelty in Woods’ selection is Australia-based midfielder Dylan Scicluna, who had played a key role for Malta U-19 in last summer’s European Championship finals that were staged in Malta.

Woods said that this match is an opportunity for Scicluna to step up his game and prove that he deserves a place in the team.

“We have been following Dylan for quite some time, I believe his contribution can help the team to operate better and I am sure that playing at this level will help him to keep growing as a player and at the same time help the team to try and get a positive result.”

Woods was full of praise of Belgium who are blessed to have some really talented players who ply their trade is some of Europe’s top leagues.

The Malta U-21 coach admitted that the team will have to show a lot of tactical organisation and adopt a patient approach.

“Our aim in every game is consistent, to perform at the best of our levels, be well prepared physically and mentally,” Woods said.

“Obviously, Belgium are likely to have a lot of time with the ball in their feet and we need to be very disciplined at the back. However, it will be crucial that when we will have the opportunities to break forward we must do all we can to ensure that we do the best possible use of the ball to try and hurt them.

“I am confident the team, and my players have improved since we faced Belgium last October and now it’s time to show on pitch the amount of development this team has shown so far.”

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