Women’s national team hosts Spain

The women’s national team hosts Spain in the first game from Group 5 of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2011 qualifying round at the Centenary Stadium on Saturday, kick-off at 17:00.
This will definitely be a most difficult game for Pierre Brincat’s side considering that Spain are one of the strongest teams in Europe in women’s football and just failed to make it to the UEFA Women’s Euro which was held over the past weeks after losing a play-off to the Netherlands. 
Addressing the media on Friday, Brincat said Spain were probably the strongest opponent ever for Malta. A game which will offer him and his players a new challenge and experience. He said that unlike previous editions of World Cup qualifiers where teams were divided in two divisions meaning that teams in each group were more or less on the same level, this time there was an open draw with Malta being drawn with England, Austria and Turkey, besides Spain. Teams which are definitely much stronger than Malta.
He explained that teams in Europe could be divided into four levels. Germany are in a class of their own, then there were teams such as the Scandinavian sides, then there are teams of medium strength such as Slovakia and Ireland and finally the smaller teams.
Last June, the team hosted a UEFA Women’s Friendly Tournament, beating Latvia 4-0 and Luxembourg 1-0, losing 0-1 to Bulgaria. Brincat said that following a well-deserved break for his players, the team started pre-season training in mid-July and has therefore been working hard for these qualifiers for the past eight weeks.
Since that tournament, the team lost four players – two due to study commitments and another two – Kathleen Saliba and Catherine Camilleri – who are injured. Brincat said he hoped the latter players will be available for the coming qualifiers.
On the other hand, three new players make it to the squad – defenders Corissa Vella of Sliema Raiders and Kim Parnis of Birkirkara and Sta. Venera midfielder Yanika Debono.
Pierre Brincat said that against Spain, the plan will be a cautious one. However he said the team will not be playing a game where they will just be trying to get rid of the ball as that would put more pressure on his players. 
He revealed that unless there are injuries in the final couple of training sessions, the starting line-up should be: Sharon Costantino, Rebecca Chircop, Natasha Pace, Maria Azzopardi, Chantal Fenech, Rachael Cuschieri, Ylenia Carabott, Dorianne Theuma, Mandy Debono, Rebecca D’Agostino, Emma Xuereb in a 4-5-1 formation. 
The women’s national coach concluded with an appeal for support, saying that even during June’s friendly tournament, the supporters which were present at the Centenary Stadium played an important role in the team’s fine performance. 
Malta captain Rebecca D’Agostino said that all players are aware that the game against Spain will be a very difficult one. She said that the team is prepared well physically following the pre-season training.
D’Agostino said that the team believed in themselves in recent outings and managed to obtain good results and performances, including against Bulgaria which were a stronger side compared to other teams they met. 
The match will be controlled by Italian referee Silvia Tea Spinelli, assisted by assistant referees Cristina Cini and Romina Santuari. Fourth official will be Silvio Tanti.