A long 10-month period without international football due to the Covid-19 pandemic is finally coming to an end for the Malta Under 21 Team as on Friday they face Northern Ireland at the Centenary Stadium.
This will be the first home match for the boys in this UEFA European U21 Championship Qualifying Group 8 following four away matches last year wiith the Maltese team collecting a prestigious point in a goalless draw against the same Northern Ireland team in Antrim.
Coach Silvio Vella expressed his confidence ahead of this Northern Ireland match despite the difficulties encountered this year and having to face Northern Ireland on Friday, and Romania early next week, with a changed squad made up of young but promising players at this level.
“The period we’ve been through was not easy but finally we are resuming our footballing commitments,” Vella said. “I know this is a youthful squad but all the players in the group are resolute to keep working hard and make progress.
“I always have faith in my group of players, they’ve worked hard to earn this call-up and are ready for the 90-minute test coming up on the pitch”.
Vella spoke about the difficult COVID-19 period and the impact it has had on the Malta Under-21 team’s preparations.
“The unprecedented issues we have all have endured hindered all our preparations this year,” the Malta Under-21 coach said. “We had matches lined up in March, a training camp in June and also a trip to play Bosnia away from home before summer but we had to cancel these plans due to the pandemic. But we have to be positive, now we’re finally preparing for a competitive match and looking forward to this game on Friday.”
Goalkeeper Andreas Vella, Jean Borg, Matthew Guillaumier, Shaun Dimech and Paul Mbong, who are all eligible to play for the Under-21s, have been promoted to the senior squad for the upcoming UEFA Nations League matches this week. Vella is also without experienced Sliema Wanderers defender Michele Sansone who has just underwent surgery in Germany.
All this meant the Malta U-21 coach had to call up new players to his squad, rewarding the likes of San Ġwann keeper Cain Formosa, defender Carlo Zammit Lonardelli, who recently joined Fidelis Andria in Italy, Adam Magri Overend of Santa Lucia, and 18-year old Alex Satariano – their first official call-up at Under-21 level for these two home matches.
“The new structure the Association has introduced centres on a unified philosophy,” Vella said. “Prior to these matches I’ve had long conversations with Mr. Devis Mangia and the rest of the Coaching staff.
“I am truly delighted with the young players who have been promoted to the senior side and I honestly wish them the very best. The young players we have in our squad are also doing well.
“These are players we have been looking at for a number of years and I’m pretty sure that, if they stay focused and keep their endeavour levels high, they will succeed and be a pivotal part in this new long-term project,” Vella declared.
Malta face Northern Ireland on Friday before hosting Romania the following Tuesday next week, both matches at the Centenary Stadium and kicking off at 18:00hrs.