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Marcolini wants national team to build on Slovenia’s showing in Belarus friendly

Malta National Teams coach Michele Marcolini. Photo: Domenic Aquilina

Malta national teams head coach Michele Marcolini said that he was delighted with the response shown by his players against Slovenia last week and wants his players to maintain their growth when they face Belarus on Tuesday (kick-off: 7pm).

Malta produced a fighting display against the highly-rated Slovenians when they came from a goal down to move minutes away from scoring a famous victory only to be denied by a late equaliser from star striker Benjamin Sesko.

Thursday’s performance caught the eye of Malta coach Marcolini who hailed the character shown by his players and he hopes they can continue from where they left off this time around against Belarus.

“It was a marvellous performance against a top team like Slovenia,” Marcolini told the Times of Malta.

“I was impressed by the players’ fightback in the second half. To go behind against Slovenia in that way makes the way we managed to turn the match around in the second half even more remarkable. There was a great desire to try and win the match but unfortunately, we couldn’t finish the job.

“However, I really enjoyed the spirit shown by the players as even when we conceded the equaliser we kept fighting together, and no doubt it was a great step forward for the team.

“Now it’s important to keep building on this.”

Malta’s first-half performance against Slovenia left much to be desired with the team often pegged back into their own half.

Marcolini admitted that the team struggled to keep up with the pace set by the Slovenians.

“I think the main problem was that we are not used to playing such high-tempo matches and that was laid bare by Slovenia,” the Italian coach said.

“Slovenia are blessed with players who have great technique and are very fast and in the opening minutes we struggled to keep up with their level of intensity. Gradually we managed to adapt to their game. The team grew a lot during the match, managed to be more aggressive and started to offer more threats through our forwards.

“After a difficult start, the team provided the right response and that match should not be a finishing point for us but a source of motivation to continue to grow as a team.

“Against Belarus, we need to try and continue this developmental process.”

Marcolini said that Belarus will offer a different challenge to the one posed by Slovenia.

“Belarus is a very strong side who managed to pick up several points in the Euro 2024 qualifying campaign,” Marcolini said.

“They are a very solid team who like to play direct football and are very strong physically. It will be a very difficult match and we need to be at least at 100 per cent of our ability. I expect the team to take another step forward from the match against Slovenia.

“No doubt, this team has grown a lot in terms of mental strength and this developmental process needs to continue.”

Marcolini did not give details on the condition of defender Steve Borg who was replaced at half-time against Slovenia but it is unlikely that the Ħamrun Spartans skipper will used for this match.

“I am planning to effect four or five changes to the team but I will preserve the spine of the team as it’s important to have the majority of the players who are used to playing with each other.

“Obviously the friendly matches are a great exercise to try out new players and during training the players have given me a lot so there is great optimism for the match against Belarus.”

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