The Cyprus national football team is gearing up for its second Nations League match against Azerbaijan in Nicosia on Tuesday night (21:45 kick-off).
The team is hoping to get their first points on the board following Saturday’s opening 2-0 home defeat to Montenegro.
Cyprus’ Belgian manager Johan Walem tried to focus on the positives though. “I’m disappointed in the result, but I’m satisfied with some of the things the team showed,” Walem said. “It goes without saying that we have to improve and there is still time.
“We faced a very good opponent with a lot of experience, in contrast to us who are a very youthful side”, Walem added. “We have to stay positive and continue putting in the effort.”
Walem explained that he was pleased with all of his players, not just the youngest ones making their debut, but did make some specific comments about some of the new faces in the squad.
“The kids showed a very good mentality in training,” he said, before adding that “we want to do something new, to give chances to young players.”
Responding to a question from a local outlet, Walem said that Omonia’s 17-year-old Loizos Loizou is a very promising player. “If Loizou continues like this and with the mentality he possesses, he will become a very good player for both club and country.”
However, Walem didn’t want to rush things and demand too much from such a young player. “We have to be calm and protect Loizos at the national team and at his club”, Walem explained.
Faruk Hadzibegic, Montenegro manager, spoke positively about Cyprus after his side’s 2-0 win. “I want to give my congratulations to Cyprus for their decision to renew their squad with young players”, Hadzibegic said. “They’ve shown what they can do in this group; they were very compact and it was a difficult game.”
Against Azerbaijan, Cyprus will be able to field experienced centre-back Valentinos Sielis, who is returning from suspension. Pieros Soteriou may also be able to play a bigger part than against Montenegro as he continues to build up match fitness after his return from injury.
Speaking before the game, Standard Liege star Konstantinos Laifis said that young Cypriot players need patience and support. “They have to play at their clubs and be supported by them so that they are ready when they are called by the national team”, Laifis said.