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Coach Mark Gatt eyes improvement as Malta girls face tough start in Denmark

A new journey beckons for the Malta women’s national team as they will launch their 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup qualification campaign with an away trip at Denmark, today (kick-off: 18.00).

The Denmark test is expected to be tough for the Maltese side but coach Mark Gatt is upbeat on the improvement that the players can make throughout this campaign, starting from this game scheduled at the Viborg Stadium.

“The upcoming season, including this qualification campaign, will be fundamental for our team in order to improve,” coach Gatt said.

“We will play around 14 games between qualifiers and internationals, and we want to improve on what we have built in recent years.

“We set the benchmark high after the previous European campaigns, but repeating the same feat will become even more difficult for us as teams will be more prepared when they face us.”

The women’s team is at the back of a record-breaking UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 qualifying campaign after Gatt’s team registered three wins and a draw, tallying 10 points and finishing fourth.

For this qualifier, coach Gatt kept faith with most of the players that played a part in that campaign including the foreign-based players that have already started their club season.

In fact, trio Emma Lipman (Como Women), Martina Borg (Roma Calcio Femminile) and Nicole Sciberras (Tavagnacco) made their Serie B debuts last weekend whereas Rachel Cuschieri has already played three Serie A games with Lazio, including against Inter and Milan.

Forward Maria Farrugia played three games with Sunderland Ladies in the FA Women’s Championship, including against Coventry United at the Stadium of Light and against Crystal Palace at the Selhurst Park.

At domestic level, Birkirkara represented Malta in the UEFA Women’s Champions League qualifiers. The Stripes start favourites to win the Maltese women’s league which starts later on this month.

“One of the main differences between our team and the Denmark players is the fact that the Danes have already started their club season whereas our domestic league is yet to start,” the Malta coach explained.

“Nonetheless, this is the start of a long journey in these qualifiers so we try to make the most of our time together in order to analyse our team, review our opponents and continue to improve our playing style.”

During the previous qualifiers, Malta faced Denmark with the Nordic side winning both matches en route to their qualification to England 2022.

“Denmark is a very experienced team and was one of the strongest teams in Pot 1 heading into these qualifiers,” he said.

“We reserve a lot of respect towards them but at the same time, we are relishing the chance to face this team because these games help us gain more experience at this level.”

One of world’s best

Denmark will be one of the teams that will feature in next summer’s UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 and are considered as one of the favourites for the crown.

They outpointed Italy to top the European qualifiers, redeeming themselves after failing to qualify for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Captain Pernille Harder, considered as one of the best players in European football, was subject to the highest transfer fee in women’s football when she joined Chelsea from Wolfsburg before the 2020-21 season.

The team includes several other notable players such as Sofie Junge Pedersen, of Juventus, Milan’s Sarah Thrige and Signe Bruun of Olympique Lyon.

Denmark start as favourites to book a place in the 2023 Women’s World Cup, with Russia, Montenegro and Azerbaijan being the other teams in this group.

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