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Belarus display bodes well for Nations League challenge says Malta women’s coach Tesse

Malta's Brenda Borg fights for the ball against Belarus. Photo: Domenic Aquilina

The last-gasp goal which allowed Belarus to peg back Malta on Sunday in the final VisitMalta Women’s friendly did not remove Manuela Tesse’s smile on her face.

The Italian coach was delighted with the performance of her side against a nation sitting 30 places above Malta in the FIFA rankings.

Despite slipping into League C in the first edition of the UEFA Women’s Nations League, Belarus are one of the much-improved sides across the European landscape of the women’s game.

For Tesse, this was the perfect gauge to measure the improvement of her team ahead of April’s debut in Europe’s second tier.

Throughout the whole 90 minutes against the East European nation, Malta looked tactically organised in its defensive phase and dangerous when breaking through the final third.

For much of the second half, Malta were without their coach Tesse having been given the marching orders by the referee, but that did not diminish the fighting spirit that this team has been showing for the past year or so under the Italian’s guidance.

“First of all, I am sorry for the red card and for leaving the players without their coach, but at the same time they were in good hands with my assistant Dionne Tonna, and with Dorianne Theuma helping them from the sidelines as well,” Tesse told the Times of Malta.

“I liked the attitude of my team, even when changing our defensive settings as we moved to a 4-5-1 at the end to try and block the half-spaces, although we still managed to concede a goal from that area.

“Despite the windy conditions, the team still tried to build up from the back, staying loyal to our playing style and to the way we prepared this match – this means that the group is following me.”

Nations League B

While the play-offs to determine which teams will compose League B are still ongoing, Tesse and her side already know who they can face from Pot 1 namely Portugal, Switzerland, the Euro 2025 hosts, Scotland or Wales.

Pot 2 and Pot 3 are yet to be determined but most probably will include the likes of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Hungary against whom Malta has played in recent years.

Asked whether these performances bode well for her team ahead of their League B games, Tesse was upbeat about Malta’s chances of making an impact.

“We have to be tactically organised, stay compact, be aggressive and make sure to execute both phases,” Tesse said.

“For example, Belarus did not produce a negative transition against us while we were dangerous in counter-attacking situations which was part of our plan against them – case in point, our goal came from such a situation.”

Under coach Tesse, Malta has registered 11 positive results in 12 outings with a promotion to the Nations League’s second tier in the process.

A daunting task awaits but given the recent performances and results, together with the continuous growth that the players are showing on the field, Malta might be ready to spring surprises when rubbing shoulders with Europe’s best.

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