The Malta Independent 29 February 2020, Saturday

Waterpolo: Izzo selects Maltese national team squad for Budapest European Championships

Henry Brincat Thursday, 9 January 2020, 15:00 Last update: about 3 months ago

The Maltese national team squad taking part in the forthcoming European Championships in Budapest has been selected.

Addressing the press yesterday, national coach Karl Izzo said it was an honour for him to be leading the side for a third consecutive time in these championships. "In 2018 it was Belgrade, last year it was Barcelona, and now Budapest.

"The previous two editions were all sensational as both gave us the opportunity to gain experience. We are aware of the very difficult task ahead, but I feel that my squad is well prepared for this event. I have an experienced squad, even if I have to admit that it was a big headache for me to select the 13 who are making the trip to the Hungarian capital.


"We have been preparing since October. First it was the gym sessions, then from November, the players were in the pool and we have played some very useful friendly matches on the way. We have been to Ostia, outside Rome, and played here against Palermo, Ostia and during these days, top side Ortigia (4 matches - the last one today). We also played against the Italian Under 19 side as well as the Under 20 selection of Serbia," he added.

Izzo is very confident that his players are in the best condition at present. "We have had a few injuries, especially Jordan Camilleri, but I am sure he will be 100 per cent fit for the tournament.

"Even Steve Camilleri had some problems, but now he is back to full fitness," said Izzo.

The national coach admitted that Group C will prove to be tough. The others in the Group are hosts Hungary, Spain and Turkey. "It is evident that our target is the match against the Turks. If we win that match, we might be able to improve on our current ranking. That should be enough motivation for my players to do their utmost in that match to be played on Thursday 16 January.

"In all probability, I will leave Jordan Camilleri out for the first match to have him completely fit and ready to face the Turks. His presence there is certainly needed and I cannot afford to have him playing the first match against Spain and risk losing him to injury for the next clash against Turkey. He is a very important player for us both in the pool and in the dressing room," said the coach.

He went on to say that his squad includes 10 players who were in the squad last year in Barcelona. "The other three are Alan Borg Cole, Gabriel Pace and Darren Zammit.

The coach thanked the association for giving him all the tools required to prepare the team for this tournament. "They left no stone unturned to help me and my players prepare ourselves in the best possible manner," he said.

Captain Steven Camilleri said the timing of these championships (soon after the start of the New Year) was good for the side. "In summer the majority of the squad, if not all the players, are involved in playing for their teams in the local league. From October onwards we have been together for most of the time, except for a few days off during the festivities," he said.

Vice captain Matthew Zammit agreed with Camilleri that this was a better time for Malta to take part in such a tournament. "We have had an excellent training programme and I feel we have been prepared better than the previous tournaments. I can say I am physically in good shape, but I am sure that all the others are fully fit and prepared for the task," he said.


Karl Izzo's squad

Sliema: Nicholas Kane Griscti, Jerome Gabarretta.

San Giljan: Andreas Galea, Darren Zammit, Matthew Zammit, Ben Plumpton, Dino Zammit.

Neptunes: Gabriel Pace, Steven Camilleri, Jordan Camilleri, Jeremy Abela, Alan Borg Cole.

Exiles: Aurelien Cousin.

Assistant coach Anthony Farrugia and medical adviser Edward Bonello will also be accompanying the squad.

The Maltese contingent, which is to include a substantial number of fans, is to be headed by ASA vice president Karl Galea.


Caruana Curran says ASA is honoured to be among the top 16 nations in Europe

ASA president Joe Caruana Curran said yesterday that it was a big honour for Malta to be taking part in this prestigious tournament for a third time in succession.

He said: "Being among the top 16 in Europe is something we only dreamed about until three years ago. But this has now become a reality and we have already started looking forward to get better results to improve our ranking.

"We are, of course, conscious that this is a very tough competition. For the youngsters, it will be a very good opportunity to learn more, while it should be another tremendous experience for the established players," he added.

Caruana Curran also said that Malta has always faced the host nation in the Group matches. "In Belgrade, we faced Serbia, last year in Barcelona, we played against Spain. Now in Budapest, we will be facing Hungary. It will be very hard. But it is certainly an occasion where our boys continue gaining experience by playing in front of a great patriotic crowd as was the case the previous two years," he added.

Caruana Curran also spoke about the friendly matches against foreign teams (mostly Italians) which he described as sparring partners.

He thanked the ASA's major sponsors, that is, Bank of Valletta, Enemed, the Malta Tourism Authority, the Malta Gaming Authority, as well as the Good Causes Fund and Sport Malta. "Without their continuous support, it would be impossible to have our team participating in such a prestigious tournament," he said.

He also thanked the clubs for lending the players to the national team as well as all the players who have been and will be making sacrifices towards this participation.

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