Malta Football Association
NEWS:
Malta women’s team scale new heights in 2020
Dec 29, 2020
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UEFA Women's EURO 2021 Qualifiers

The latest update in the FIFA Women Ranking capped a very positive 2020 for the Malta women’s national team. The Maltese girls were the biggest movers as they obtained 37 points, rising 16 places to 85th to reach this position for the first time in three years.


Despite the difficulties faced by the Maltese squad due to COVID-19, Mark Gatt’s side managed to remain focused on their targets and set the bar higher.

 

The UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 qualifiers highlighted the progress of the women’s game on our shores as the Maltese side obtained the highest number of points – 10 – in a qualifying campaign, finishing fourth, their highest position ever in this phase.

 

Malta, who were one of two Pot 5 teams in Group B alongside Georgia, endured a difficult start to the qualifying commitments with three straight defeats to Denmark, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Italy.

 

APPEARANCE MILESTONES

 

Midfielder Emma Xuereb, who plays for Swieqi United, made her 50th appearance for Malta in the opening game against the Danes, in Viborg. Moreover, Rachel Cuschieri of Lazio, Birkirkara’s Stephania Farrugia and Charleroi’s Ylenia Carabott collected their 60th, 70th and 80th cap for Malta in the away loss to Bosnia, respectively.

 

Also, goalkeeper Janice Xuereb, who is on the books of champions Birkirkara made her 40th appearance for Malta whereas defender Jade Flask of Swieqi United was featuring for the 50th time with the colours of her national team.

 

Malta’s first home game was a 2-0 defeat against 2019 World Cup quarter-finalists Italy, with defender Emma Lipman of Lazio making her national team debut.

 

In their 10-game qualification campaign, Malta earned their first points in the fourth outing when they drew 1-1 with Israel on home soil, Maria Farrugia scoring Malta’s first goal in Group B. In the following game against Italy at Castel di Sangro, the AFC Sunderland Ladies forward collected her 10th cap with the national team.

 

Meanwhile, Juventus player Nicole Sciberras represented Malta for the 10th time in the draw against Israel.

 

At the turn of this year, Malta stepped up their preparations ahead of the March double-header with friendly tests against higher-ranked sides Switzerland and Turkey.

 

In the Switzerland game, Malta put on a solid performance as goals from Stephania Farrugia and Ylenia Carabott helped Gatt’s side to a well-deserved 2-2 draw.

 

A 2-1 defeat to Turkey followed with clinical forward Haley Bugeja scoring her maiden Malta goal in what marked the start of a spectacular breakthrough by the Sassuolo forward on the international stage.

 

Bugeja’s former team-mate at Mġarr United Brenda Borg marked her 40th game with Malta in the 2-2 draw against Switzerland whereas defender Ann-Marie Said, who features for Birkirkara, played her 20th game against the Swiss.

 

MARCH HIGHLIGHTS

 

The month of March highlighted Malta’s progress as a national team as they hosted Georgia and Bosnia in a UEFA Women’s Euro home double-header.

 

Goals from Cuschieri and Bugeja, her first in this qualifiying campaign, sealed a 2-1 victory over Georgia, the first ever victory at this level.

 

In the Bosnia game, Malta succumbed to a dramatic 3-2 defeat in a game where they almost staged a famous comeback. Gatt’s side managed to cancel a three-goal deficit in the final stages of the game with Emma Xuereb and Brenda Borg grabbing Malta’s goals. Despite the defeat, this performance boosted Malta’s morale ahead of the remaining games in Group B.

 

100 CAPS FOR CAPTAIN THEUMA

 

Meanwhile, the home qualifier against Bosnia marked a century of games for Malta captain Dorianne Theuma. The Swieqi United midfielder became the first female player to reach 100 appearances for the national team, joining the likes of Joe Brincat, Carmel Busuttil, David Carabott, Gilbert Agius, Michael Mifsud and Roderick Briffa in the FIFA Century Club.

 

This game was also the 45th for Gatt in charge of the women’s national team since making his debut in an Aphrodite Cup match against Azerbaijan in 2015.

 

After another difficult match and heavy defeat against Group B winners Denmark at the Centenary Stadium, during which highly-experienced defender Charlene Zammit (Swieqi United) collected her 70th cap, Malta headed for a double-header trip to Georgia and Israel.

 

BUGEJA HAT-TRICK

 

In Tbilisi, striker Haley Bugeja set a new European record as she became the youngest hat-trick scorer in a European qualifier at 16 days and 205 days, bettering Julie Fleeting’s record set way back in 1997. In the process, Bugeja also became the first Malta player at senior level to score three goals in a competitive game.

 

Bugeja’s goal propelled Malta to a spectacular 4-0 win over Georgia, with Shona Zammit scoring the other goal – her first at competitive level, on her 50th appearance.

 

Malta’s win against Georgia was the first away victory in a qualifying group, with a shout-out to goalkeeper Janice Xuereb who preserved her first clean sheet in this campaign.

 

A second clean sheet followed in the 2-0 victory against Israel, in Tel-Aviv as Gatt led his girls to their 16th win under his guidance. In this game, Martina Borg, of Sassari Torres, made her 40th appearance for the national team as well.

 

As Malta joined the party in the FIFA Rankings, one hopes that 2020 will bring further progress of the women’s game on our shores. 

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