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We have embarked on the right path, says Gatt

Malta players reacting after scoring against Estonia. Photo: Domenic Aquilina/MFA

Malta players reacting after scoring against Estonia. Photo: Domenic Aquilina/MFA

It has been a remarkable 15 days for the women’s national teams as the senior side bounced back from a narrow defeat to Estonia when they cantered to a 4-1 win over the former Soviet Republic nation.

The senior national team’s victory over Estonia, who are ranked 77th in the world – eight places higher than Malta, came just a week after the women’s U-16 side claimed three successive wins over Andorra, Gibraltar and Liechtenstein to top the UEFA’s Development Tournament at Ta’ Qali.

These results are a clear testimony that the level of women’s football in Malta is improving and this is all down to the commitment put in by the technical staff, spearheaded by Director Pierre Brincat and ‘A’ team coach Mark Gatt.

Moreover, the players have shown a vast improvement in their level of play and that is also shown across the domestic scene as well, and this is due to the fact that local clubs are appointing qualified coaches who are helping the girls to make that leap in quality.

“Our game is on the right path,” Gatt told Times of Malta.

“I think the second game highlighted that despite the physical discrepancy between the two sides, our players are much better technically and that gave us the edge to chalk up a big win against Estonia.

“One has to keep in mind that I could not make use of valuable players such as Dorianne Theuma and Ylenia Carabott, whose experience is very useful, and that shows that our strength is in our numbers.”

Apart from Theuma and Carabott, Gatt was also without Rachel Cuschieri, who currently plies her trade with Belgian side Anderlecht, who suffered a season-ending injury that will keep her out for at least the next four months.

Gatt said that the win over Estonia has instilled a lot of self-belief in the players and helps them to make a step forward in their development.

 “After the 1-0 defeat, I spoke to the team and told them that we had to put a bright display in the next encounter if we wanted to chalk up an important result,” Gatt, the former Malta U-19 coach, affirmed.

“Tactically, I opted to shape my team into a 3-4-3 formation to exploit the flanks and have an extra forward upfront, as Estonia make it difficult to surpass their first pressure of line centrally.

“It was not easy to adjust the system in a few days, but the will to make amends for the previous defeat allowed the players to understand what I expected from them.”

Gatt handed a first cap to three players, bringing up the number of debutants under his charge to 14.

Mġarr United striker Roxanne Micallef, who netted six goals for her club in this year’s Women’s League and  Sunderland Academy player Maria Farrugia and Nicole Sciberras, who is on the books of Italian side Grifone Gialloverde, donned the national team shirt for the first time against the Estonians, with the latter finding the net in the second warm-up against Estonia.

“Roxanne Micallef has a particular story. She was absent from the field for almost two years due to her injuries and since her return, she is proving to be a valuable asset for her club, therefore I decided to call her up. I think she justified my decision pretty much,” Gatt explained.

The Malta coach revealed that both Farrugia and Sciberras were on his radar for quiet some time.

“Last year, I travelled with the U-17 team with their coach Frank Schembri in Estonia for the Development Tournament, in which they left a good impression of themselves,” he underlined. “The aim of my trip was to monitor closely the U-17 team to have an idea of which players are prepared to make the final step and join the ‘A’ squad, and after a full week I deemed both of them as ready.”

Testing time

Gatt is now into his third year at the helm of the national team, and statistically, he has fared very positively recording 14 wins and nine draws in his 31 games in charge.

However, after failing to reach the proper qualification rounds of both the UEFA Women’s Championship and the FIFA World Cup, Gatt is determined that the current roster has what it takes to overcome that hurdle and join the big guns in the qualifications.

To this end, the Malta FA is already planning to add further international tests to ensure the players gain more international experience and confidence ahead of the qualifying matches for the 2021 UEFA Women’s Euro.

“As Malta coach, every year was a stage for me,” he explained.

“First, I felt the need to inject younger blood in the team. I knew most of the players that came in as I had coached them at youth level.

“Afterwards, I started to implement my offensive ideas, even though I had to work on the confidence of my players before applying it to the full.

“However, given the positive results we are achieving, it seems that the players have assembled my idea and hopefully this will eventually lead us to the next target – qualification.”

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