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Defeat to the Czech Republic a big step back, says Malta coach Marcolini

Malta goalkeeper Henry Bonello catches the ball during the friendly against the Czech Republic. Photo: Domenic Aquilina

Michele Marcolini branded his team’s performance against the Czech Republic as a ‘huge step back’ as the Malta national teams’ head coach was left disappointed by the lack of aggressiveness shown by his players against the Euro 2024 finalists.

Yesterday, the Malta national team woke up in Austria licking their wounds after a damaging 7-1 defeat to the Czech Republic in an international friendly at the Grodig Stadium in Austria on Friday.

The performance of the national team was a pale shadow from their recent displays against Slovenia (2-2) and Belarus (0-0) which had hinted that the team was moving in the right direction, particularly given that they are just months away from the start of their UEFA Nations League commitment.

Against the Czechs, after finding themselves behind after just five minutes when conceding a penalty, the Maltese did well to keep at bay their opponents. But Mojmir Chytil’s brace at either side of half-time completely took the fight out of the Maltese players who conceded four more goals and crashed to one of the heaviest defeats for our nation in recent years.

“It was a very disappointing match from a lot of aspects,” Marcolini told the Times of Malta.

“First of all it is very disappointing in terms of a result as it’s unacceptable to concede seven goals and I would like to apologise to everyone for that.

“Of course, we committed a lot of defensive mistakes as we gave our opponents too many easy opportunities to score.

“But the biggest problem in my opinion was the fact that our level of aggressiveness was not the same as in our recent matches and in the end we couldn’t manage as we wanted the different moments of the game.

“Instead of being compact as a team we didn’t find the right distance between the different departments and the right timings to put pressure on our opponents.

“However, I must say that although we did commit a lot of mistakes, we had managed to get back into the match after we thought that we had pulled two goals back. But the referee annulled our second goal, in what was a wrong decision as it was not offside.

“The reaction was poor and Joseph Mbong’s red card was the knock out blow for us.”

The match agains the Czech Republic arrived almost a month after the domestic season in Malta finished, with the majority of the players clearly lacking match sharpness.

But Marcolini refused to use that as an excuse.

“No doubt, the fact that our players haven’t played an official match for sometime while our opponents, the Czech Republic, are preparing to take part in the Euro 2024 finals, surely didn’t help us,” the Italian coach said.

“But I don’t like to find these kind of excuses. The truth is that after two very good international windows, where we showed a lot of improvement, yesterday we took a big step backwards.”

Strong response

The Malta coach said that it was important now that the team puts quickly behind them the match against the Czech Republic and is expecting a strong response in their final friendly of the season when they face Greece at the same venue on Tuesday.

“Of course I expect a strong reaction by my players,” Marcolini said.

“It is important to learn from the mistakes we committed against the Czech Republic and we have to be aware that these situations could also help us understand that we cannot change our behaviour and mentality after two good results.

“We have to recognise the wrong aspects of this bad performance and work properly on them.

“Against Greece I want to perceive a proper mental reaction after a big defeat like the one conceded against the Czech Republic. I want to see the will from my players that they want to react.

“I expect a different and better connection and attitude by the players, especially in the defensive phase.

“The team has to be more aggressive a show more compactness between all the departments.

“From an attacking point of view, it was in general not the best of performances but we still manage to score twice, as I believe that our second goal should have stood and was no way offside. We did create a few scoring opportunities and we need to continue to create more chances.

“We have to continue to try and be more of a threat for our opponents.

“No doubt a good result against Greece could help us to prepare better for our next commitments with more enthusiasm.

“If the players do produce the right reaction after such a heavy defeat could also mean that there is great awareness by the players on our project.”

Marcolini said that he has yet to decide if he will ring the changes against Greece.

“I prefer to wait for the remaining training sessions before I make a decision. We still have three training sessions to go and I want also to understand the different reactions of the players.”

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