Rebecca D'Agostino will be leading Malta in this month's UEFA European Women's Championship preliminary round after helping them secure their first competitive point earlier this year, and believes they can secure a debut victory.
The 1-1 draw with Bosnia-Herzegovina in their final FIFA Women's World Cup game in Corradino in June ended a run of 13 defeats since making their competitive bow in UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2005™ qualifying. Their second EURO campaign starts on Saturday in Group 3 against Lithuania before facing mini-tournament hosts Luxembourg and Slovakia with one place in the qualifying group stage on offer. And Melita FC defender D'Agostino, named best female player in the 2004/05 and 2005/06 Maltese Football Awards, believe the islanders could make progress.
Time to win
D'Agostino told uefa.com: "I reckon Slovakia are the strongest side in our group. I believe though that our national team has improved very much in recent matches, and if we play as a unit we can even notch up a good result against Slovakia themselves. I believe the time for our first competitive win is near."
A veteran of all 14 of Malta's previous competition fixtures, the 24-year-old developed her skills in street football, playing with boys. There was family encouragement too. "My father, Alfred also had a big influence," D'Agostino said. "Being very much involved in youth football he encouraged me to take up the sport. I used to go everywhere with him and thus my love for football grew to the extent that I took on football as my number one sport."
However, D'Agostino believes progress still needs to be made. "Improvement in the local female game should come from having the right facilities," she said. "Unfortunately the right facilities are not currently as we would like them to be. If facilities are not there, I think that we will lose young girls who are interested in developing their football skills. I must also mention, though, the backing we have had from the local Football Association."
Signs of growth
D'Agostino's Malta and Melita team-mate Natasha Pace emphasised that there are signs of growth. "Four new girls' football nurseries were introduced recently - Pembroke Athleta, Hibernians, Birkirkara and Valletta - and this confirms the interest in women's football on the island," Pace said.
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