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Coach Izzo banking on youth

Malta waterpolo coach Karl Izzo has named a host of young players in his squad for the Group C qualification round tournament of the Champions League, being played at the National Pool this weekend.

Competing under the name of Valletta, the Maltese team launch their commitments with a match against Poland’s KS Arkonia Szczecin on Friday evening.

On Saturday, Izzo’s team meet Romanian side Steaua Bucharest before concluding their group campaign against PVK Jadran Herceg Novi, of Montenegro, on Sunday morning.

Deprived of several experienced players, Izzo and his assistants have selected an experimental squad featuring seven up-and-coming players who represented the country in the European Under-19 Championships, held earlier this month in the Netherlands.

The newcomers in the senior squad are Neptunes trio Jeremy Abela, Miguel Zammit and Jake Tanti; Darren Zammit, of San Ġiljan; Sirens’ Jacob Sciberras; and Sliema duo Nicholas Bugelli and David Fenech.

The team will be captained by Matthew Zammit, of San Ġiljan.

The list of absentees includes Neptunes striker Steve Camilleri, who has started training with Italians Ortigia ahead of the Serie A1 season, and San Ġiljan trio Ben Plumpton, Andreas Galea and Dino Zammit. All three will play for Serbia’s Vojvodina in the European waterpolo season.

Alan Borg Cole, Aurelien Cousin, Jerome Gabaretta, Marc Grech, Mark Meli, Gabriel Pace and Michael Rizzo are also out of the equation.

Despite being without most of his experienced personnel, Izzo has no qualms about calling up several youngsters as he believes that the Champions League tournament will help the country’s rising talents and other fringe players to gain more experience and raise their standards.

“This tournament is a great opportunity for our young players to make further progress in their careers,” Izzo said.

“Playing in a senior international tournament against three strong teams will surely benefit all the players in our squad.”

The squad
Kurt Griscti (Exiles); Jeremy Abela, Miguel Zammit, Jake Tanti (all Neptunes); Matthew Zammit, Darren Zammit (San Ġiljan); Nicky Grixti, Jacob Sciberras, Zach Mizzi (all Sirens); Nicholas Bugelli, Alex Attard, Edward Aquilina, David Fenech (all Sliema); Michael Spiteri Staines (Valletta).

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