Malta women’s coach Mark Gatt is looking forward to see his team in action as the Maltese girls will host Montenegro in their first of double-header against the Eastern European side, on Thursday at the Centenary Stadium (kick-off: 18.30).
This will be Malta’s first game since the Visit Malta tournament, back in February, where they had crossed swords with two strong teams in the women’s game in Slovakia and Sweden.
The four-month wait has increased anticipation for this game as coach Gatt starts to prepare his side for the upcoming 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifiers which will commence in September.
The Montenegro test will be fundamental as it will serve as a gauge to measure the progress of his side even though the Covid-19 pandemic did not make the build-up any ease, as coach Gatt said.
“It has not been easy for this group of players when they gathered back for training as not everyone was at the back of the same training periodization,” Gatt explained.
“The local-based players had their season halted back in March whereas the players who play abroad were at the back of a long and exhausting season, meaning we had different situations of physical fitness.
Nonetheless, I am very happy with the players’ input into our training sessions as they are challenging each other, making this team more competitive.”
The previous European qualifications have showcased Malta’s offensive threat, with Gatt’s side scoring 11 goals – including six in the final two games against Georgia and Israel.
For these Montenegro games, the Malta coach wants to see his side’s offensive tactics continue to take shape as he anticipates that in some of the upcoming World Cup qualifications, there will be moments where they will dictate proceedings upfront and therefore, he wants the team to keep improving in the final third.
“After facing two tough oppositions in Slovakia and Sweden, we are very eager to measure ourselves against a par-level opponent,” Gatt said.
“This will give us the chance to attack and it is important to work on this aspect as we will have our chances in the upcoming qualifying campaign for sure.”
World Cup draw
After these Montenegro friendlies, Malta will return in action in September with a double-header against Denmark and Bosnia-Herzegovina as they will launch their World Cup qualifications.
Malta, drawn in Group E with Denmark, Russia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Azerbaijan and Montenegro, are striving to improve on what they have built in recent years, as Gatt underlined.
“As Malta, we will never say that we had an easy draw because every game is difficult for us,” the Maltese coach said.
“However, this group has its advantages as we faced all opponents already – bar Russia – and this means that we can prepare even more in depth for this campaign,” Gatt explained.
“Our expectations are to keep improving and from my end, I just want to take it game by game while enjoying our journey.”