Women’s team coach Gatt upbeat ahead of Bosnia clash

The Malta women’s national team will return in action as they host Bosnia-Herzegovina in their second 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifications at the Centenary Stadium, on Tuesday (kick-off: 18.30).

Malta has already faced Bosnia in the recent UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 qualifications, with the Bosnia side winning on both occasions.

However, Malta came close to cancel a three-goal deficit and rescue a point in their second-round game against Bosnia at the Centenary Stadium.

“We are aware that it will be a very difficult game having already faced them in the previous qualifications,” Gatt explained.

“This team is closer to our level and we believe that against these types of teams we can implement our football, having more opportunities to threaten them.

At the same time, Bosnia are at the back of a defeat against Montenegro and that will inject extra motivation into them to beat us.”

When the teams met back in March 2020, it was the last time the women’s national team played in front of the fans and for the first time since that game, Gatt’s side is set to play in front of the home spectators at last.

“In that game, we appreciated the backing of the local supporters as it pushed our players to score two goals in the closing stages of the game,” the Malta coach said.
“We almost rescued a point in that game and we hope that the support will play a crucial role in this game once again.

The players always appreciate the fact that supporters come and watch them in action, and we hope that we can stage a positive display.”

For assistant coach Dionne Tonna, this will be her first competitive game on home soil in that role. She was part of the national team when Malta and Bosnia met for the first time on our islands, in a 2004 meeting at the National Stadium in Ta’ Qali.

Included in that Malta’s squad was also Dorianne Theuma, who is still playing a key part at the heart of the midfield of the national team.

“We knew what type of difficulties we were going to find against Denmark,” Gatt pointed out.

“We had to defend a lot and we rarely had opportunities to enter Denmark’s box.

Nonetheless, those are games that help us improve and enable us to be braver when we face teams such as Bosnia-Herzegovina.”

For this game, coach Gatt included forward Francesca Chircop, who was top scorer of the women’s league in the last season while at Mġarr United will be replacing Birkirkara’s Gabriella Zahra, who was unavailable for selection. Moreover, Crotone Femminile’s goalkeeper Maya Cachia has also been added to the team who will be replacing the injured Janice Xuereb.

Bosnia eyeing improvement

Heading into these qualifications, Bosnia were striving to challenge for the second spot which would guarantee them a play-off spot for the 2023 World Cup edition.

However, their hopes were dealt a heavy blow as they opened their campaign with a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Montenegro, on home soil.

In the previous UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 qualifications, Bosnia placed third just behind giants Denmark and Italy. Their positive results enabled them to move into 58th in the FIFA Rankings.

Bosnia’s star player is Milena Nikolic, who is also the national’s team captain. The 29-year-old is considered as one of the best players in the German women’s league, where she plays with Bayer Leverkusen.

Nikolic faced Malta twice in the previous qualifications, scoring in their home game and playing a crucial part in the second-round match.

Bosnia’s team includes also high-profile players such as Melisa Hasanbegovic of Sporting Lisbon, Selma Kapetanovic of Minsk and Dajana Spasojevic of Zhytlobud-1 Kharkiv.

Source: Malta Football Association

Photo: Stephen Gatt