The Malta women’s national team will return to host a 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifier when they take on Montenegro at the Centenary Stadium, on Friday, kick-off at 19:00.
Under the guidance of coach Mark Gatt, the women’s national team is at the back of a historic victory in Azerbaijan. The 2-1 scoreline in Baku earned the Maltese side its first ever victory in a proper qualification round of any Women’s World Cup edition.
Second-half goals from Dorianne Theuma and Emma Xuereb propelled Malta to victory as they now sit fourth in the six-team group with four points, two points behind third-place Montenegro who have enjoyed a bright start to this campaign. just like Gatt’s team.
Photo: Copyright Malta FA
In fact, coach Gatt is wary of Montenegro’s threat and is urging his players to be prudent and brave for this meeting which will determine who will sit in third place at the end of this Matchday.
“Montenegro might have an advantage over us when it comes to physical strength while at the same time they have players with important experience given that some of them feature in Spanish and German clubs,” coach Gatt explained.
“However, we also have our own strengths such as pace and technical qualities that allow us to have a say in these international games.
In addition, we also have players that are based abroad and the current mix of youth and experience in the team is also helping us make the team more competitive.”
Both teams have already crossed swords earlier this year, in two international friendlies which were held at the Centenary Stadium back in June. Montenegro had emerged winners 2-1 in the first meeting, with Shona Zammit scoring Malta’s goal. In the second and final friendly, a Jade Flask header was enough to hand Malta a much-deserved victory, making for a fairly-balanced encounter this Friday.
“We are looking forward to face Montenegro, a team that we have already encountered in two friendlies back in June,” Gatt pointed out.
“Obviously, those friendlies served us as preparation ahead of these qualifiers and therefore we tried a lot of different things in both 90 minutes.
“Both sides have showed signs of progress since those games as we continued to gain points through solid performances against teams such as Bosnia-Herzegovina and Azerbaijan.”
“I hope that we can put up a commanding showing in what I believe it will be a very interesting match for the supporters to watch.”
For this double-header, coach Gatt has welcomed back some important players namely goalkeeper Janice Xuereb and forward Haley Bugeja, who were both absent in recent games due to injuries.
“Having a full squad with all players available is something that every coach wants,” Gatt underlined.
“In our case, we feel stronger when all players are available and at the same time, it injects further motivation into us”.
The results in recent games highlight the progress that these two teams have made at international level. In fact, there is not much separating them in the FIFA rankings as Malta sit 93rd whereas Montenegro occupy the 98th place.
In the previous European qualifications, Malta had registered its first every victory in any proper qualification round of any major tournament. Montenegro reached that feat in the opening game of these qualifiers when they stunned 58th-ranked Bosnia-Herzegovina in Sarajevo. In addition, they also defeated Azerbaijan while they became the first team to score against UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 participants Denmark in this group.
Their squad is composed of players who ply their trade across Europe in high-profile clubs such as Minsk of Belarus, Rayo Vallecano of Spain and RB Leipzig of Germany.