The Malta women’s national team wrap up their VisitMalta Women’s Trophy commitments when they host North-African side Morocco in their second and final game on Saturday, at the Tony Bezzina Stadium (kick-off: 4pm).
Led by Mark Gatt, the Maltese women are on the back of a dominant display which resulted in a 3-1 victory against Moldova in the tournament opener.
Morocco, who will play their first game in this competition, are tipped to provide a more challenging test to Gatt’s side.
Ranked 78th in the world, 17 places above Malta, Morocco have embarked on an ambitious journey under new coach Reynald Pedros.
The two-time UEFA Women’s Champions League winner Pedros is tasked with the responsibility of guiding Morocco in next summer’s CAF Women’s Africa Cup of Nations, which will be staged on home territory, and to secure an historic FIFA Women’s World Cup qualification ahead of next summer’s edition.
“Facing Morocco is an intriguing challenge for us, especially since they hail from a different continent and we are facing them for the first time,” coach Gatt explained.
“Morocco will test our tactical organisation as they are a team that likes to dictate proceedings and switch play, therefore there will be a lot of movement.
“We have to remain concentrated throughout the 90 minutes.”
Most recently, Malta have been involved in several matchups against highly-ranked teams and more often than not, they have always stepped up their game and produced a spirited display.
One example is last year’s first edition of the VisitMalta Tournament when eventual Tokyo 2020 silver medalists Sweden found Malta’s opposition tougher than expected and had to wait until the second half to score two goals and eventually secure a 3-0 victory.
“Morocco are placed 78th in the FIFA rankings, a region where we have already been having been 85th in late 2020,” coach Gatt explained.
“Obviously, the ranking positions depend on the games that you have played throughout the year but despite the difference of 17 places between us, I feel that they are a very similar team to us.
“Given also the number of foreign-based players that we have in our squad alongside the domestic-based ones, our team can be very competitive when it comes to face these types of opponents.”
One of the Malta national team players that ply their trade overseas is captain Emma Lipman, who is back into the fray for the Morocco game after being unavailable for selection for the tournament opener.
On the other hand, the Malta coach still sees room for improvement especially from a physical point of view to continue to help this team grow and remain competitive on this stage.
Nonetheless, the performance against Moldova was very important for Gatt because there were a lot of positives on which the coach can continue to build in view of the remaining World Cup qualifications.
At the same time, the victory was a much-needed boost after the Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina defeats which did not make justice to Malta’s performances on both occasions.
In beating Moldova, Malta has established its superiority against teams in its region of the FIFA rankings and the next step in their development process is to start getting more important results against teams placed a little higher.
In the current 2023 Women’s World Cup qualifications, Malta has collected four points so far after a 2-2 draw with Bosnia-Herzegovina and a 2-1 win against Azerbaijan. Both opponents were placed higher than Malta in the rankings at the time of play, with Bosnia sitting in 58th and Azerbaijan in 78th, now pipped by Morocco who climbed three places.
“This is another important game for our team because it will add more experience and it will give us a chance to progress from one match to another,” the Malta coach underlined.
“We will continue to make mistakes, but I am sure that all these international games are serving us well and it is being reflected in the results that we are obtaining.
“At the end of the day, the progress that we do will be reflected in the future generation of the women’s game on our shores, so we are responsible for improving the benchmark of our level.”