Tuesday 04 April 2017, 12:33

Andorra take first steps on uphill climb

  • Andorra set to debut in a FIFA Women’s World Cup™ qualifying phase

  • To date they have played just six competitive games, three of them official

  • The entire team is currently drawn from the same club

When you are born in the heart of the Pyrenees, skiing is often the default sport you get introduced to. After all, the steep mountainous terrain does not exactly lend itself to an abundance of football fields. However, the women’s game is growing all around the world and Andorra, despite its unique topography, is proving no different.

In June 2016, Jose Antonio Martin took up the coaching reins of the Andorra national women’s team, which this week will participate for the first time in the preliminary round of qualification for the FIFA Women’s World Cup. They will face off against Group 3 rivals Lithuania, Israel and Moldova (between 6-11 April) for a place in the final qualifying phase for France 2019.

Recently turned 34, Martin shares his national team duties with that of head coach with Andorran side ENFAF, who compete in the Catalan league. Despite that, he insists there is no conflict of interest in the situation.

“It’s actually an advantage because not only can I follow the girls closely day to day, I can also use the club’s training sessions and games to work on certain aspects ahead of international fixtures,” he explained.

Nor is there any room for favouritism. Indeed, the coach is lamenting the loss of one of his best assets, Teresa Morato of Barcelona, who will miss the Lithuania game through injury. The resources to choose from are certainly limited.

202 women players are officially registered with the Andorran Football Federation and there are just 16 women’s teams in the entire Principality, counting all age categories.

A very short history The Andorra national women’s team only played for the first time in 2014, when they took part in that year’s UEFA Women’s Development Tournament. Then coach Joan Carles Ruiz led the side to victory in their first fixture, with Alba Lopez finding the target in a 1-0 triumph over Gibraltar. Their next undertaking was the preliminary qualifying phase of the UEFA Women’s EURO 2017, which unfortunately yielded three defeats in as many games.

Ahead of what will be their third tournament participation this week, the Principality team played three friendlies, twice against Malta and once against Catalan side AEM Lleida. And while those fixtures also ended in defeat, they did at least enable the players to further develop their game, as Martin explained. “We’re a side with very compact lines and we’re also physically strong. We compete for every ball and feel very comfortable playing direct football.”

Record of Andorra women’s national team * July 2014 - Debut at the UEFA Women’s Development Tournament in Gibraltar* . Gibraltar – Andorra (0-1) . Andorra – Luxemburg (0-4) . Portugal – Andorra (0-2)

April 2015 – Preliminary round games for places in the qualifying group stage of UEFA Women’s EURO 2017 . Andorra – Georgia (0-7) . Faroe Islands – Andorra (8-0) . Andorra – Malta (3-5) **Official Games