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Coach Mark Gatt upbeat as Malta women face Bosnia in World Cup qualifier

Haley Bugeja is expected to lead Malta's forward line against Montenegro. Photo: Stephen Gatt

The final act of the year for the Malta women’s national will be an away fixture against Bosnia-Herzegovina in their sixth 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifier. The game will be played at the Bosnia-Herzegovina training centre in Zenica on Tuesday (kick-off: 1pm).

Malta is on the back of an undeserved 2-0 defeat against Montenegro, last Friday.

Mark Gatt’s side produced a commanding showing, dominating proceedings but failed to make their pressure count despite creating a number of goal-scoring opportunities.

This defeat left Malta fourth with four points, trailing Montenegro by five points after the latter secured their third win in these qualifications.

“The first reaction was a disappointment because we felt that we could have gained points from that match after putting up such a performance,” coach Gatt explained.

“However, this team is used to these situations and more often than not, has bounced back with positive results and we hope that the positive environment created by the staff members and the players themselves will enable us to be mentally prepared.

“We immediately shifted our focus on the Bosnia-Herzegovina game and I am hopeful that team can make the most of this gathering here to have a positive 90 minutes.”

Malta and Bosnia-Herzegovina crossed swords back in September, when Gatt’s side produced a brilliant fightback to cancel a two-goal deficit and score their first-ever point in a proper qualification round of a Women’s World Cup tournament.

Maria Farrugia and Stephania Farrugia scored Malta’s goals in the final stages of the reverse fixture in what was a memorable evening for the local women’s game.

“We faced Bosnia-Herzegovina very recently and we are aware of the difficulties that we will encounter,” the Malta coach underlined.

“Back in September, it was a fairly-balanced game and we know that there will be moments where we have to roll up our sleeves but if we stick to our playing style, I know that we can be of a threat as well.”

Although Bosnia-Herzegovina are ranked 58th and were in Pot 3 heading into these qualifiers, they had a poor start in this campaign which cost them the chance to challenge for at least a play-off spot.

In fact, Bosnia are currently second bottom with just a point after five outings. They lost to Montenegro 3-2 before drawing with Malta followed by three defeats against joint-leaders Denmark, twice, and Russia.

The core of their team is made up of players who play for FK Sarajevo, Bosnia’s best club in the women’s game while there are others who ply their trade overseas.

These include captain Milena Nikolic of Bayer Leverkusen, Selma Kapetanovic of Belarus’ Minsk, and Dajana Spasojevic who is on the books of UEFA Women’s Champions League participants WFC Zhytlobud-1 Kharkiv of Ukraine.

“I am expecting Bosnia-Herzegovina to be very aggressive and to make use of their height and physical prowess,” Gatt pointed out.

“They are a team that likes to be pragmatic and obviously has the home advantage, in a very cold climate to which we are not used to.

“On the other hand, though, our team can thrive in such situations. Obviously, we will adopt a cautious approach to our game, especially due to the fact that we have some fitness doubts about certain players that might influence our tactical decisions but on the whole, I remain hopeful.

“In the last two games against them, we scored four goals so I hope that it will serve as a good omen for us.”

Standings provided by SofaScore LiveScore

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