Malta U-21 coach Vella eyes continuation
A new campaign for the Malta U-21 team begins later this month with two away games, a friendly match against Luxembourg on March 23 followed by the opening 2019 Euro U-21 qualifying match against Belgium on March 27. Silvio Vella, the Malta U-21 coach, today announced his 18-man squad for the upcoming assignments.
While Vella can still rely on a host of players who were part of the last Malta U-21 squad, the likes of Joseph Mbong, the Hibernians winger currently playing on loan with Croatian club NK Inter Zapresic, Jake Grech, the Ħamrun Spartans captain, Hibernians forward Jurgen Degabriele and Valletta's versatilemidfielder Jean Borg, he has also promoted a host of new players.
Nine of the 18 players in Vella’s selection were in the Malta U-17 squad that participated in the UEFA U-17 European Championship final tournament, played here in 2014.
Most of the younger members of the Malta U-21 squad were born either in 1997 or 1998 while Myles Beerman, who is playing for the Academy of Scottish club Rangers, has just turned 18.
“There is continuation,” Vella told www.mfa.com.mt.
“The players who were in the Malta U-17 squad for the UEFA tournament have a lot of international experience, albeit the levels are different.
“But, the most important thing is that these young players have improved and are now playing quite regularly for their clubs.
“We also have a few players who have experience at U-21 level as they were also part of the last squad. Their contribution will also be very important for us.
“Our objective is to maintain a high level of performance in this qualifying campaign.”
In the last UEFA U-21 qualifying trek, Malta collected 11 points in Group 1, the best ever tally by a national selection.
The Maltese contingent depart for Luxembourg on Tuesday ahead of their friendly match against the hosts at the Stade Albert Berchem, in Kehlen, on March 23.
The match against Belgium, four days later, is the opening fixture from Group 6 of the UEFA 2017-19 U-21 Championship qualifying campaign. The qualifier, to be staged in Louvain, kicks off at 20.00.
The other nations in Group 6 are Cyprus, Hungary, Sweden and Turkey.
Malta and Belgium were in the same group in the last UEFA U-21 qualifying competition with the latter winning 2-0 at home and 3-2 at the Hibs Stadium.
MALTA U-21 SQUAD
Goalkeepers: Jake Galea (St Andrews); Philip Schranz (Tarxien Rainbows).
Defenders: Jean Borg (Valletta); Michele Sansone (Sliema Wanderers); Karl Micallef (Ħamrun Spartans); Nikolai Muscat (San Ġwann); Dunstan Vella (Hibernians); Kurt Zammit (Tarxien Rainbows).
Midfielders: Myles Beerman (Rangers, Scotland); Jurgen Suda (Pietà Hotspurs); Juan Corbalan (Gżira United); Jake Grech (Ħamrun Spartans); Matthew Guillaumier (Birkirkara); Zachary Scerri (Gżira United).
Forwards: Jurgen Degabriele (Hibernians); Aidan Friggieri (St Andrews); Joseph Mbong (NK Inter Zapresic, Croatia); Kyran Nwoko (St Andrews).