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Dominant Maltese lads refuse to fold

Qualify for September’s finals along with Germany

Malta U-19 were superior to their counterparts from Bulgaria, yesterday. Photo: Matthew MirabelliMalta U-19 were superior to their counterparts from Bulgaria, yesterday. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

It may not be a question of Malta defying the odds. Given that our teams have improved by a long shot, these were not stacked against a small country competing against bigger nations.

Our credentials have now placed us in a category whereby obtaining a berth in the last 16 in Europe is becoming something of an expectation.

Yesterday, Malta Under-19 completed their mission with an 11-4 victory over Bulgaria after having secured qualification the day before when beating Slovenia 15-9.

“I think we performed to expectations and probably beyond,” were the first hot comments of Malta captain Nicholas Bugelli, definitely one of the best performers in this tournament.

“We qualified from a tough group and our improvement brought us deserved success,” the versatile player remarked.

Summing up, the Maltese juniors lived up to their billing of a solid outfit brimming with tactical knowhow and acceptable physical qualities which should guarantee a rosy future for the local game.

Whether we can make the quantum leap to break into the elite territory of the very top nations depends on our continued progress.

Against Bulgaria, the lads refused to fold, despite some chinks in their armoury resulting from the occasional complacency.

However, Bugelli showed the way with three goals and another reassuring class act which provided oxygen for his colleagues, one of whom was Kyle Navarro who did a good job as last man.

The somewhat fiery Ben Plumpton and improved centre Jeremy Abela, were, as usual, among the scorers with two goals each. The other conversions came from Jacob Sciberras, Michele Mifsud and Mathias Azzopardi, all promising lads.

After a quiet start the hosts took a 5-2 lead trimmed down to 5-3 by the halfway mark.

The accelerator was pressed in the third and fourth sessions, with the final score mirroring Malta’s dominance.

Summaries

Bulgaria 4
Malta 11

(1-2, 2-3, 0-3, 1-3)

Bulgaria: E. Trendafilov, K. Burnazov, N. Todorov, A. Jackway, A. Kyumurdzhiev, E. Zlatkov, I. Stefanov 2, M. Metodiev, V. Raykov, V. Grigorov, N. Todorov, P. Yordanov 2, G. Nenov.

Malta: Z. Sciberras, N. Bugelli 3, K. Navarro, J. Sciberras 1, I. Riolo 1, B. Plumpton 2, J. Galea, M. Mifsud 1, J. Abela 2, M. Zammit, M. Cacici, M. Azzopardi 1, J. Tanti.

Referees: E. Erkan (Turkey) and G. Courbin (FRA).

Germany 19
Slovenia 4

(3-3, 3-1, 7-0, 6-0)

Germany: D. Bauch, K. Huppe 1, K. Sopiadis, P. Dolff, J. Reinhart 4, D. Strelezij 3, B. Reibel 3, B. Boffen 1, E. Manolakis, T. Tadin 6, R. Toth 1, V. Winkler, M.V. Schweime.

Slovenia: J. Beton, B. Popovic 3, B. Briski, P. Vuk, Z. Mocnik, M. Rahne, J. Justin, T. Debevc 1, K. Lazar, P. Brozovic, A. Finzgar, R. Bergant, L. Ivusic.

Referees: B. Littlejohn (Britain) and S. Melnicov (Moldova).

Final standings
Group A: Germany 12 points; Malta 9; Ukraine 6; Slovenia 3; Bulgaria 0.

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