Powerhouse Sweden will be among the national teams invited to feature in the first edition of the Visit Malta Women’s Trophy between February 15 and February 24.
Malta will commence their tournament campaign against Slovakia on February 18 before facing Sweden on the 23rd. Both matches will be held at the Hibernians Stadium. Austria will be other participants in this tournament.
This competition will be the first international commitment for the Malta women’s national team since their successful double-header away at Georgia and Israel which helped them reach a record-breaking 10 points while placing fourth in the six-team Group B qualifier for the 2022 UEFA Women’s Euro.
Moreover, the Maltese girls were the biggest movers in the latest FIFA Rankings having gained 36 points to jump from 101st to 85th.
Malta will be once again under the guidance of coach Mark Gatt, whose contract was extended until the end of the upcoming 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifiers. The draws for this competition are penciled for April 30.
“This tournament shows that the work done in women’s football is getting more recognition, because managing to attract a team like Sweden is a testament of that,” coach Mark Gatt told a news conference.
“This will be a good experience for us, which will serve us as a preparation for the national team commitments ahead of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifiers later on this year.”
Without doubt, the main attraction of the tournament will be Sweden who are fifth in the FIFA Rankings. The Swedes are at the back of a third place in the recent 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, after beating England in the ranking final under the guidance of coach Peter Gerhardsson who has been at the helm since 2017.
This tournament will serve Sweden as a preparation for the upcoming Olympic Games for which they qualified after sealing a top-three spot in the World Cup. It will be Sweden’s seventh straight participation in the Games as they will be looking to go one step further than Rio 2016, when they lost the final to Germany having eliminated the United States in the process.
“I look forward to meeting the team again and getting started with the preparations for the Olympics,” Sweden coach Peter Gerhardsson told the national team association website.
“In terms of calendar, there is still six months left until the championship, but considering the number of days we have for joint preparations, this will be an important camp.
It will be a good opportunity to continue working with our game in both training and matches.”
Their star-studded squad includes Juventus duo Linda Sembrant and Lina Hurtig, Sofia Jakobsson and Kosovare Asllani of Real Madrid, Chelsea’s skipper Magdalena Eriksson and long-serving defender Nilla Fischer, who won four Bundesliga titles and a UEFA Women’s Champions League at Wolfsburg before heading back to Sweden at Linkonpings.
Meanwhile, Austria and Slovakia are also high-ranked in the women’s game. The Austrians sit 20th and are at the back of a positive 2022 UEFA Women’s Euro qualifiers, finishing second while still waiting whether they will be one of the second-placed teams given a bye to the finals or have to go through the play-offs purgatory.
Among their players, there is Arsenal goalkeeper Manuela Zingsberger and Bayern Munich’s Carina Wenninger and Sarah Zadrazil.
Slovakia, on their part, are ranked 45th and one of their main stars is goalkeeper Maria Korenciova who is on the books of Milan and who has already faced Sassuolo and Malta striker Haley Bugeja twice in Serie A and Coppa Italia games this season.
In their recent European qualifiers they missed qualification after finishing third in a group that included also Sweden.
TOURNAMENT FIXTURES – HIBERNIANS STADIUM
FEBRUARY 18 – Malta vs Slovakia (15.00)
FEBRUARY 19 – Austria vs Sweden (15.00)
FEBRUARY 23 – Malta vs Sweden (14.30)
FEBRUARY 23 – Austria vs Slovakia (18.30)
Champions Birkirkara face Mtarfa
Meanwhile, Birkirkara will face Mtarfa as Match Day 14 of the Women’s League takes centre stage this week.
MĠARR GROUND – 20.30
Birkirkara vs Mtarfa
DINGLI GROUND – 20.45
Kirkop United vs Mosta
DINGLI GROUND – 20.45
Raiders Għargħur vs Swieqi United