The Malta women’s national team will be hosting Armenia, the Faroe Islands and Georgia in Group 2 of the UEFA Women’s EURO 2013 Preliminary Round at the Centenary Stadium between Thursday 3 and Tuesday 8 March.
Women’s national team coach Pierre Brincat said that unlike the Women’s World Cup qualifiers which were played over the past two years, the teams which Malta will be facing are more or less on the same level as our team.
Malta had already met Armenia in a UEFA mini-tournament in Macedonia, losing 1-2. On the other hand, Malta had never played Georgia and the Faroe Islands.
Brincat said that despite ending at the bottom of the group in the World Cup qualifiers, he could still draw some positive aspects. He said the players improved and this is also showing clearly in domestic league matches.
The Malta coach said his main objective for this tournament is that of playing positive football. Brincat said the team will aim at scoring goals and not just defending in order to avoid conceding goals – trying to obtain points and possibly win.
The squad includes two new faces – seventeen-year old goalkeeper Dorianne Grech who plays for Second Division side Tarxien Rainbows and eighteen-year old Kirsty Feasey who plays for Reading in England.
The Malta coach has been in contact with Feasey over the past year and after playing in a friendly match for Malta, she joined the squad for the final two weeks of preparation ahead of this tournament. He said despite her young age, Feasey could be an important player for the team.
One of the experienced players in the Malta squad – Chantal Fenech is ruled out of the tournament due to an injury. Fifteen-year old Amber Grech of Pembroke Athleta, who is one of the most promising players in Division 2, was not included in the squad as she is currently preparing for exams.
Brincat said the main problems affecting the team’s preparation were related to work and study commitments. He complained about the fact that a number of players were not released from work for training sessions.
Pierre Brincat went on to say that he believes the future is bright for women’s football in Malta. He said that besides an Under-16 national team, an Under-13 selection has just been introduced. These young players are showing great dedication and are fully supported by their parents.
To gain more experience, hopefully the Under-16 side will be travelling to Cyprus to take part in a tournament.
Brincat said the future of the women’s game was in schools and for this reason, a league for seven independent schools for children under the age of ten is being held. An Under-16 national league is also being played on Sundays at the Luqa Ground.
A number of women’s national team players are also offering a service to the game by taking up coaching. Chantal Fenech is due to attend the Physical Trainers Course, Sharon Costantino attended the Goalkeepers Course while Dionne Tonna, who is currently helping the coaching staff, will be attending the UEFA C Licence Course. Natasha Pace is assisting coach Mark Gatt with the Under-16 national team.
The Malta coach said since the number of players is still quite low, the objective is to work closer with schools in order to attract more girls to the game. He said that unfortunately at club level, women’s team find little support from the parent clubs as the latter may feel that the women’s team is more of a burden.
The squad for the tournament is made up of:
goalkeepers Sharon Costantino (Mosta), Dorianne Grech (Tarxien);
defenders Maria Azzopardi (Hibs), Rebecca Chircop (Mosta), Rebecca D’Agostino (Mosta), Kirsty Feasey (Reading), Natasha Pace (Mosta), Dorianne Theuma (Mosta), Charlene Zammit (Hibs);
midfielders Orianna Bedingfield (Mosta), Rachael Cuschieri (Birkirkara), Mandy Debono (Hibs), Antoinette Sammut (Mgarr), Corissa Vella White (Hibs), Emma Xuereb (Mosta), Gabriella Zahra (Birkirkara);
forwards Ylenia Carabott (Hibs), Kathleen Saliba (Hibs).
Malta plays the first game against Georgia on Thursday at 11:00, then against the Faroe Islands on Saturday at 14:00 and against Armenia on Tuesday at 14:00.
Also present at the press conference was MFA Technical Director Robert Gatt who promised the Technical Centre’s support to the women’s national team sector.