FIFA World Cup qualifiers: Malta to host Russia in opening match

The fixtures for the Group H of the FIFA World Cup 2022 were released on Tuesday.

Malta plays the first game at home on Wednesday March 24 against Russia. Three days later, on Saturday March 27, Malta plays Slovakia away from home and then on Tuesday March 30, Malta plays Croatia away from home.

On Wednesday September 1st, Malta hosts Cyprus before another two away matches against Slovenia on Saturday September 4 and Russia on Tuesday September 7.

On Friday October 8, Malta hosts Slovenia and three days later, on Monday October 11, Malta plays Cyprus away from home.

The final two matches in November will be at home against Croatia on Thursday November 11 and against Slovakia on Sunday November 14.

Photo: Copyright domenic aquilina/MFA

Malta and Croatia met eight times with Malta obtaining a 1-1 draw at Ta’ Qali in the World Cup qualifiers in September 2005.

Slovakia and Malta met eight times – four friendlies and four World Cup qualifiers with the only positive result for Malta being a 1-1 draw in a friendly match away from home in 1994.

Malta and Russia met only once in the Malta International Tournament in 1996 with Russia winning 2-0.

This will be the seventh clash between Malta and Slovenia after two matches from the Malta International Tournament, two EURO qualifiers and two World Cup qualifiers. The only positive result for Malta was a goalless draw in the February 1996 tournament.

The record against Cyprus is a win, two draws and three defeats. Malta had defeated Cyprus 1-0 in a friendly match in 1988 away from home and then managed two draws in two friendly matches – 1-1 at home in 1988 and 0-0 away from home in 1989. Malta lost the other friendly match in Cyprus in 1992. The two EURO 2004 qualifiers ended in 2-1 wins for Cyprus.

The ten group winners will qualify directly for Qatar 2022, with the ten runners-up advancing to the play-offs.

Besides the ten runners-up from the group stage, the play-offs will also include the two best group winners from the UEFA Nations League 2020-2021 overall ranking that did not qualify directly for the FIFA World Cup 2022 and did not enter the play-offs as runners-up. The 12 teams will be split into three play-off paths, which will feature single-leg knockout matches in March 2022 to determine the last three European nations to book a place in Qatar.