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Maitekainen prioritises Wales future

Former Finland youth coach Jarmo Maitekainen is thinking long term as his first qualifying campaign in charge of Wales begins against the Republic of Ireland on Saturday.

Young Wales players like Jessica Fishlock gained experience against Germany in 2009 qualifying
Young Wales players like Jessica Fishlock gained experience against Germany in 2009 qualifying ©Getty Images

Jarmo Maitekainen is thinking long term as he prepares to begin his first qualifying campaign as Wales coach.

The Republic of Ireland visit Newport on Saturday to open UEFA Women's EURO 2013 qualifying Group 4, a year after Maitekainen left his role as Finland's women's youth coach to take up this challenge.

On their return to top-level competition in UEFA Women's EURO 2009 qualifying, Wales did not pick up a point but they managed wins against the Czech Republic, Belgium and Azerbaijan in more recent FIFA Women's World Cup preliminaries. Now, with a team aged mostly 20 or under, Maitekainen has plenty of potential to work with.

"We definitely are working on a long-term project to develop women's football in general," Maitekainen told "And obviously the senior national team is not the 'senior' team in that respect. We have good experienced players, but we are looking forward to bringing the young players through."

It has been a busy year under Maitekainen with ten games in all, starting with a 3-2 loss to Scotland, then defeating Romania, Chile, Luxembourg and Northern Ireland and running the likes of China and Colombia close. The biggest test in their EURO group will come from World Cup semi-finalists France, but Scotland and Ireland both made the qualifying play-offs for 2009 and are familiar opposition for Wales.

"Any draw coming from the fifth pot is going to be tough, and this is a tough one," Maitekainen said. "Logistically it's not the most difficult, it's almost [like rugby's] five nations, with Israel the only ones travelling. But interesting, certainly.

"[France] are going to be tough but you have to keep in mind that Scotland and the Republic of Ireland did extremely well in their last campaigns. They will be the three favourites in the group."