Malta women’s national team coach Manuela Tesse has urged her players to be more mature in their UEFA Women’s Nations League finale against Latvia.
The Italian tactician pointed out that the mental aspect will play a crucial factor as Malta and Latvia take on each other in Tuesday’s big showdown at the Centenary Stadium.
Despite being held to a goalless draw in Moldova on Friday, Malta still lead their League C group, three points clear of Latvia.
Tesse’s selection will be guaranteed an historic League B promotion if they manage to pick up at least a point on Tuesday.
On the other hand, Latvia must win, even by just a goal, to pip Malta into first place and seal promotion to League B due to a better goal difference.
Should Malta finish second, they would advance to the promotion play-offs against one of the best third-ranked teams of League B to determine their position ahead of the Euro 2025 qualifications.
Latvia have a better goal difference than Malta despite Tesse’s side keeping a clean sheet across all five group matches so far.
The Baltic side scored 16 goals and conceded four while Malta scored 11 goals in their opening four games before failing to find the net for the first time in this Nations League campaign in Friday’s match against Moldova.
Lack of maturity on such important occasions played a crucial role in the Moldova game according to Tesse.
“In our build-up to the match against Latvia, we have to work on the psychological aspect as we showed that we are not yet mature to wrap up this qualification at the first time of asking,” she told the Times of Malta.
“The objective is very close but we failed to score and eventually missed out on the chance to seal promotion today.
“Against Latvia, we need to be calmer and impose our playing style together with the backing of our supporters.”
Asked about what could have went better against Moldova, Tesse said that this was a very difficult match and that her side did not play its best football in the first half.
“I think the players were too nervous for this occasion as there was a lot at stake for them,” she explained.
“We were not clinical in the final third, despite producing 15 shots and having 11 corner kicks.”
In pointing out set-pieces, Tesse mentioned what could be a determining factor in Tuesday’s game.
Latvia is a team that boasts tall and robust players but have proved vulnerable from dead ball situations as they showed in November’s 3-3 draw with Moldova when they conceded all three goals from set-pieces.
Moreover, Malta’s away goal in Riga was scored from a set-piece follow up which should encourage Tesse’s team to try and be more clinical in such situations.
On the other hand, Tesse heaped praise on goalkeeper Janice Xuereb whose outstanding efforts allowed Malta to maintain their fifth consecutive clean sheet in this group.
“As I had said before the game, Moldova have strong forwards and they are very fast in transition movements,” Tesse said.
“Janice Xuereb did a great job for us, saving us on more than one occasion.”
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