The Malta women’s national team is set to usher into a new era as Italian coach Manuela Tesse will make her debut against Luxembourg on Friday, at the Centenary Stadium (kick-off: 6pm).
The Maltese side, sitting 88th in the FIFA rankings, will host 118th-ranked Luxembourg in two matchups with the second one penciled for next Monday (kick-off: 11am).
Tesse, who was named Head Coach of the Malta women’s teams in December, is excited to start this new adventure in charge of her first-ever European national team.
Her previous international experiences were as assistant coach of Italy seniors between 2011 and 2012, coach of Trinidad and Tobago’s U-17’s selection, and was also part of Canada’s technical staff at senior level between 2010 and 2011.
The UEFA Pro License-holder has inherited the national team from coach Mark Gatt, who led the team to two record-breaking qualifying campaigns, as she hopes to take this team to the next level.
“I am very excited for this new adventure in Malta and cannot wait to have the first match with this team,” Tesse told the Times of Malta.
“I am very happy with the team. They are very motivated and determined to do well for our country. They have high spirits and have been doing well in training,” she said.
For Malta, this will be the first taste of international football since their September games against Azerbaijan (2-0 defeat) and Montenegro (2-0 win, in Podgorica).
The two international games against Luxembourg will serve as a preparation for September’s debut in the newly launched women’s Nations League which the Malta FA has targeted as an important objective.
A couple of other international windows will precede the Nations League appointments, with Malta expected to play at least one game in April, away at Estonia, before returning to action in July.
Asked about what she will be looking for in these two matches, Tesse explained that she just wants to see the players in action.
“Firstly, I would like to see the team in action because the match gives you a different perspective and will help us plan and work better during our Nations League preparations,” the former Italy international said.
“I believe that we need to be more organized tactically because it is harder to play against foreign countries, given the level abroad is different.
Therefore, I believe that the technical aspect is very important to first improve in their respective clubs.”
For these two games, coach Tesse has trimmed its provisional 29-player squad to 22 players with goalkeeper Giulia D’Antuono, midfielders Rachel Cuschieri and Veronique Mifsud together with forward Alishia Sultana being withdrawn due to an injury.
Reagan Mallia, who plies her trade in the United States at West Virginia University, has been picked up after the 18-year-old player for the U-19’s selection against Catania on Monday’s friendly.
On the other hand, Luxembourg’s squad is mostly composed by domestic-based players, including representatives of champions Racing FC Union Luxembourg.
Included in the squad are also four foreign-based players who are Ana Abreu of Germany’s TuS Issel, Charlotte Schmit of SC Freiburg, and Standard Liege’s duo Lara Miller – Luxembourg’s captain, and Caroline Magalhes.
Luxembourg last played in November when they lost 3-2 to Lithuania in an international friendly.
GOALKEEPERS: Janice Xuereb (Birkirkara), Patricia Ebejer (Mġarr United).
DEFENDERS: Rebecca Bajada, Maia Debono (both Mġarr United), Stephania Farrugia, Ann-Marie Said, Charlene Zammit (Birkirkara), Alexandra Gatt (Durham Cestria, England), Emma Lipman (Como Women, Italy), Emma Xuereb (Swieqi United).
MIDFIELDERS: Brenda Borg (Mġarr United), Martina Borg, Nicole Sciberras (Hibernians), Reagan Mallia (West Virginia University, USA), Dorianne Theuma, Shona Zammit (Swieqi United).
FORWARDS: Haley Bugeja (Orlando Pride, USA), Ylenia Carabott (Spezia, Italy), Maria Farrugia (Durham), England), Jade Flask, Mariah Sciberras (Swieqi United), Kailey Willis (Chievo Verona, Italy).
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