Malta faces Latvis in the first game in League C Group 1 of the UEFA Women’s Nations League at the Jūrmalas Pilsētas Stadium Sloka, kick-off at 15:30.
Speaking ahead of this game, Women’s National Team Head Coach Manuel Tesse said “It is not easy to prepare for two competitive matches in a span of four days, I however believe in the players and the preparation done with their respective clubs. Ultimately everything will be decided on the pitch, but from what I have seen in the past four training sessions, I think that we are ready to face Latvia.”
The Maltese WNT have recently celebrated their 20th year anniversary since debuting in an away game in Bucharest against Romania and currently stand 85th in the FIFA Rankings.
A 22-player squad was announced last Saturday, with Head Coach Tesse including a good mix of experienced players as well as a number of promising young players. Tesse has reiterated that she sees a great future for the Maltese female players and how in the past year at the helm of the WNT she has observed several talented youngsters. Under her helm, the Maltese side has played four international friendlies, with two wins against Luxembourg and another against Estonia. The only loss came against a much stronger side Haiti, who have recently competed in the Women’s World Cup for the first time.
Malta last played Latvia in 2017 at the Aphrodite Cup, with the Latvian side winning with a minimal score of 1-0. Previously in 2016, the two teams faced each other in two friendly games with Malta winning the first 3-0 and the two teams sharing the spoils in a 1-1 draw a few days later. Tesse remarked that despite these past positive results, during the past years, both the Maltese and the Latvian side have grown and changed a lot, with both nations investing in the women’s football sector. “I have faith that whatever the result, the players will be giving their 100% on the field of play tomorrow to bring home the first three points from this encounter.”
The new Women’s Nations League format has been approved last year, with the new system coming as part of the UEFA women’s football strategy for 2019-2024. It will act as the first phase of a two-part women’s national team competition cycle, with the other phase being the European Qualifiers for the UEFA Women’s Championship or FIFA Women’s World Cup. The new system will create more competitive matches with teams of similar strength facing each other. This will avoid results such as that suffered by the same Latvia WNT against England during a FIFA Women’s World Cup qualification match where the Lionesses beat Latvia to the tune of 20 – 0.
According to Tesse, this is the right formula to help the small footballing nations grow. “Before it was not possible for small teams to compete against and offer a good opposition to the top ten teams. Each time the result was humiliating and discouraging for the weaker teams. Now the possibility to compete against nations with the same strengths and abilities is real. This makes the competition even more interesting and important because the team can show on the pitch all its worth.”