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Players’ fitness hurt our chances, says coach Izzo

Exams allowances only for international tournaments – University

The Malta junior national team players during the European championship at the National Pool. Photos: Wally Galea

The Malta junior national team players during the European championship at the National Pool. Photos: Wally Galea

Malta coach Karl Izzo was disappointed with the performance of the junior national team during the European Championships that came to a close on Sunday at the National Pool.

The Maltese youngsters placed last in the 16-team championship after losing all the matches played.

Montenegro won the gold medal after edging Spain 11-10 in a thrilling final with Hungary completing the podium after defeating Russia 14-11 in the bronze medal play-off.

Izzo laid most of the blame on the players’ fitness for Malta’s abject showing last week.

“I am really frustrated with our final position,” Izzo told Times of Malta.

“We could have easily finished at least 14th in the final standings. Against Ukraine we  were firmly in control and had enough opportunities to put the game beyond our opponents’ reach but in the end we were severely punished.

“But if you had to analyse our performance one has to admit that the team’s preparations were not good enough for the championship and that is not acceptable.”

The Malta coach said that he was disappointed with the poor physical condition he found his players in at the start of the tournament preparations.

“I was really frustrated on our first day of training to see the players well below their best condition,” he said.

“They were coming from a full summer season and it was a bit of a shock for me to find the players struggling to cope physically while their swimming preparation was not up to standard. These shortcomings came back to haunt us during the tournament as the team struggled to play five matches in the space of seven days.

Malta coach Karl Izzo was disappointed with his team performance.Malta coach Karl Izzo was disappointed with his team performance.

“In the coming days I will hold a meeting with all club local and mostly foreign coaches and we will discuss these issues together as it’s not acceptable that we arrive for such a prestigious tournament without the right preparation.”

In the run-up to the tournament Izzo had criticised the Ministry of Education’s decision of not giving permission to a number of players in the squad to sit for their A-Level exams in Hungary where the team was due to attend a week long training camp in preparation for the tournament.

Contacted by the Times of Malta, Pierre Cassar, Director of Marketing, Communications and Alumni Relations, said that MATSEC had turned down the ASA request as they only made such allowances for competitions.

“The current policy makes allowances for competitions rather than training camps,” Cassar said.

“This was the primary reason why the request was not approved. It is important to point out that any request for approval also needs to be endorsed by SportMalta.”

Izzo said that he was disappointed to be denied the chance to take the team for this training camp in Hungary where he had lined up a number of friendly matches with the home side in a bid to step up his players preparation.

“Not being able to take the players for a training camp in Hungary surely hurt our chances of faring better in this tournament,” Izzo said.

“The training camp would have given me the opportunity to put the players through their paces and also give them the opportunity of playing against a strong side like Hungary which would have helped to increase the intensity in our game.

“Such decisions makes me realise that in Malta we do not give sport the importance it deserves and unless we change our stance there is no way that we can improve our level.”

Izzo said that the current format of having all youth leagues played in the space of two months didn’t make much sense as it left him with little time with his players.

“I only had the players available on August 29, which is less than two weeks from the start of the tournament,” he said.

“It’s my intention to talk with the ASA administration and the clubs to spread the youth competitions over a period of eight months.

“That will give the coaches and players a better opportunity to work on their game and at the same time ensure that they arrive for key international competitions in far better condition.”

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