The women’s national team seeks a second successive qualification to the qualifying round proper of a European competition as Malta hosts Group 2 of the UEFA Women’s EURO 2017 Preliminary Round between the 4th and 9th April.
Malta faces Andorra on Saturday 4 at 14:15, Georgia on Monday 6 at 14:15 and Faroe Islands on Thursday 9 at 11:00. The three matches will be played at the Victor Tedesco Stadium.
In view of this mini-tournament, Malta took part in the first edition of the Aphrodite Cup in Cyprus, finishing third after defeating Azerbaijan 2-1, losing 1-2 to tournament runners-up Cyprus, a 1-1 draw with Bahrain and a 2-0 win over Latvia in the final for third and fourth place.
Addressing the media on Wednesday, women’s national coach Mark Gatt said that the team will be aiming at continuing on what they had done in the Aphrodite Cup. He said that the main objective will be that the players enjoy playing good football.
“I believe in our potential. Anything can happen. We have a good mixture of established players and youngsters who make up a good team.”
“I have been working with the younger players (as Under-19 national coach) for the past five years and eight years with the older players as assistant national coach. I know them well and know their potential but we need to keep our feet on the ground. We need to be realistic,” stressed Mark Gatt.
“Winning the group is not impossible but we need to keep our feet on the ground. We have to respect our opponents and not fear them.”
Former women’s national team coach, Pierre Brincat, who has now been appointed Women’s Football Director, said that this role is a new challenge for him. Brincat said that after eleven years as national coach, he felt he needed to give the women’s national team the opportunity to have a different coach with different ideas. He said he will be there to continue supporting the coaching staff, saying that Mark Gatt had been assisting him as assisting coach for the past eight years and knows the players well, also having been coach of the Women’s Under-19 side.
Pierre Brincat thanked the Malta Football Association for giving the women’s national team the opportunity to take part in the Aphrodite Cup to gain more experience and the clubs for allowing the players to train together for the past weeks. He also thanked Apollon Ladies FC of Cyprus by releasing Rachel Cuschieri to join the national team for training therefore allowing coaches Mark Gatt, Frank Schembri and Roger Camilleri to have the full squad at their disposal for the past weeks.
As regards Malta’s opponents, Brincat said Andorra were a new team while Georgia and Faroe Islands had played against Malta four years ago. Malta had defeated Georgia but lost to the Faroe Islands. However he stressed that things do change over four years.
Andorra will be taking part in the competition for the first time. In a friendly match against Luxembourg last July, Andorra lost 0-4 in Gibraltar. Georgia did not play any international matches since the FIFA Women’s World Cup Preliminary Round mini-tournament in April 2013 when they defeated Lithuania 4-3 but lost 0-2 to Montenegro and 1-2 to the Faroe Islands.
The Faroe Islands had won a qualifying mini-tournament two years ago to reach the qualifying round proper, collecting two points in two draws at home against Bosnia-Herzegovina and Northern Ireland. Malta met the Faroe Islands in 2011, losing 0-2.
Pierre Brincat said that the main objective will be that of playing good football. He said that by reaching the qualifying round proper of the Women’s World Cup, it was a beautiful experience which enabled the team to face some of the giants in the game.
Brincat went on to say that the Under-15s win over Romania – a team whose players were a year older than the Maltese – was of big satisfaction. He said that this group of players would take part in the UEFA Youth Development tournament. The Under-13s are taking part in the Gatorade tournaments organised by the Youth FA.
Malta would not be taking part in the UEFA Women’s Under-19 competitions this season. Pierre Brincat said that the main reason was the lack of players at this particular age group although Mark Gatt said that there are a number of good players.
National team player Gabriella Zahra said that although the team went through a number of changes in recent months, the players are working hard together to improve and are aiming for a good result in this mini-tournament as it was the case two years ago.