One final test for the Malta women’s national team as they wrap up their UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 qualifying campaign with an away game against Israel at the Ramat Gan Stadium on Tuesday (kick-off: 3.30pm, Malta time).
Led by Mark Gatt, the girls are buoyed by an historic 4-0 victory away to Georgia which ensured a best-ever finish for Malta in a qualifying round of a major tournament. In addition, the victory in Tbilisi was Gatt’s biggest competitive win in his 45th game in charge of the women’s national team.
The Malta coach is keen for the team to translate the enthusiasm from the Georgia success into another solid performance against Israel with fourth place at stake. Gatt has lauded his team for their progress during these European qualifiers.
“Every victory is a plus for us,” Gatt told www.mfa.com.mt. “Positive results highlight the progress of this team from every aspect and witnessing the growth and improvement of this group of players has been very satisfying. They are becoming more mature and experienced in their game with our objective remaining to obtaining as many points as possible in every tournament we are involved in.”
Unlike Malta, Israel have not played since beating Georgia in September but have featured in three friendlies against Israeli clubs in their preparations for their final qualifier.
“Our preparations have been a bit different as we’ve had two away trips during these difficult times,” Gatt explained. “Nonetheless, I am upbeat about my team’s chances as these circumstances did not hinder our confidence as reflected by our performance and result against Georgia.
“For this, I would like to thank the Malta FA for the support, especially for arranging the chartered flights for these two games.”
A victory against Israel would boost Malta’s chances of earning promotion into Pot 4 in the upcoming 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup. In addition, among the teams in Pot 4 and Pot 5 in these qualifiers, Malta are the second-highest scoring side with nine goals, one short of Israel.
“Achieving sustained progress is our overall objective and therefore this game will serve as another opportunity to consolidate this project in further developing the women’s game at international level,” Gatt explained.
“At the same time, we must underline the girls’ improvement as they continue to gain experience at the highest levels of women’s football while producing positive results.”
Forward Haley Bugeja wrote a new chapter in the history of Maltese football as she became the first player to score a competitive hat-trick for Malta in the 4-0 victory over Georgia.
Her contribution in these qualifiers has brought added value to Gatt’s team but the Sassuolo player feels that the whole team has stepped up the level.
“The Georgia game was very special for me, of course,” Bugeja said. “It has further enhanced my motivation but at the same time it was a splendid match for the national team as we managed to write history. Hopefully, it will be a springboard for us to do well against Israel.”
The former Mġarr United forward is looking forward to taking the field for the final qualifier against Israel as she is confident that the team will again rise to the occasion.
“We are preparing in the best possible way under the good guidance of our technical staff,” Bugeja explained. “We have been studying our opponents but at the same time working on our strengths. Personally, I am very motivated to do well at this level and help the team obtain another positive result.”