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Malta face Croatia and Slovakia in world cup qualifiers

Malta face Croatia and Slovakia in world cup qualifiers

Photo credit: MFA

A total of 55 teams are competing for the 13 spots up for grabs from Europe. There are 10 groups, with the winners of each automatically qualifying for the World Cup.

Malta was handed a tough start to the 2022 World Cup qualifiers as the national team was drawn in a tough Group H, one of the ten UEFA groups in the World Cup qualification tournament to decide which teams will qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup finals tournament in Qatar.

Group H consists of six teams: Malta, Croatia, Slovakia, Russia, Slovenia and Cyprus.

So far, Malta has managed to produce strong displays in this World Cup qualifying group, even against the likes of Croatia and Russia, where the national team was lauded by its opponents. Last September, Malta won its first World Cup qualifier in eight years, beating Cyprus 3-0 with two goals from right-back Cain Attard and leaving Cyprus at the bottom of the group. This marked the team’s first-ever win in a World Cup qualifier at the National Stadium in Ta’ Qali.

Other World Cup qualifier victories for Malta came away from home against Estonia in 1993 and Armenia in 2013.

With two games to go to complete their group commitments, Malta will now first face Croatia home on November 11, before facing Slovakia on November 14. Russia and Croatia are confirmed as the top two in Group H, with 19 points and 17 points respectively. Croatia fell behind in the race after drawing 2-2 with Slovakia. Russia is likely to qualify if they beat Cyprus and Croatia fail to beat Malta. Croatia must match Malta’s result to stay alive in the race.

Should that be the case, the tie between Russia and Croatia on November 14 becomes a mouth-watering affair. Only the group winners will qualify automatically for the tournament with the second place entering a playoff with the other runners up in the qualification groups.

The 10 runners-up will be joined by the two highest-ranked teams from the Nations League, who have not already qualified or finished in second in their respective World Cup group.

The 12 countries will then be split into three groups of four, whereby two knockout rounds – being a semi-final and final – will take place in each, all in March 2022, to determine the side that qualifies.

Malta and Cyprus are currently joint at the bottom with five points.

Remaining fixtures in group H are as follows:

Russia vs Cyprus (November 11)

Malta vs Croatia (November 11)

Slovakia vs Slovenia (November 11)

Croatia vs Russia (November 14)

Malta vs Slovakia (November 14)

Slovenia vs Cyprus (November 14)

Now it’s time for the national team to step up and regroup to avoid bottom place in a qualifying campaign for a major tournament for the first time since the 1994 World Cup qualifications.