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Stern test for Malta women against fifth-ranked Sweden

Malta’s Brenda Borg in action against Slovakia. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

A stern test awaits the Malta women’s national team when they face Sweden in their second and final game from the VisitMalta Women’s Tournament today, at the Hibernians Stadium (kick-off: 14.30).

Malta opened their commitments with a 4-0 defeat at the hands of a much-improved Slovakia, ranked 45th in the world.

Mark Gatt’s side, who jumped into 85th place in the latest FIFA rankings, had their preparations hampered with several injuries for this tournament.

In fact, Gatt did not have Dorianne Theuma, Maya Lucia, Ylenia Carabott and Haley Bugeja available for selection for this game. In addition, he will be without Emma Lipman and Jade Flask, both out due to injuries.

“Given we have a number of unavailable players, this tournament has served as a platform for the fringe players to showcase themselves on a daily basis on the training field and on game days,” coach Gatt told the Times of Malta.

“Our aim is to have a more competitive squad over the next two years when we will be taking part in the World Cup qualifications.

“We will be facing teams of this level and while we would have liked to face these teams at our best, it is still a learning curve for us.”

For Gatt, this will be his 50th game in charge and hails this game as one of the biggest in his career.

“It will be a very tough challenge on my 50th appearance, but we will try our best of course,” Gatt explained.

“We will strive to remain compact in our game and while we are realistic about our chances, we are looking to gain some positives from this game as well. I am convinced that my team can put up a solid display.”

Sweden have a long tradition in the women’s game. They have been successful at both club and international level, inspiring girls in football all over the world.

The Scandinavian side, who qualified to the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022, are at the back of a fantastic 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup campaign, finishing third.

In the process, they defeated favourites Germany in the quarter-finals for their first win over the Germans in 24 years.

Olympic glory

Previously, Sweden were silver medalists in the Rio 2016 Games as they look to go one step further in next summer’s Olympics in Tokyo.

They are ranked fifth in the FIFA Rankings and have highlighted their superiority in their opening game from this tournament, outclassing Austria 6-1.

Captained by Caroline Seger, who is four games away from the all-time appearances record, Sweden have a host of famous players including Juventus duo Linda Sembrant and Lina Hurtig, who both scored against Austria.

Moreover, Real Madrid’s Sofia Jakobsson was also on the mark against Austria with club team-mate Kosovare Asllani expected to feature against Malta after skipping the opening game as she is recovering from an

Against Austria, coach Peter Gerhadsson handed a debut to Johanna Rytting Kaneyrd and Josefine Rybrink as well.

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