Wales confident Jess Fishlock will be fit for World Cup play-off action

Wales are confident Jess Fishlock will be fit for World Cup play-off action after missing the final qualifying double-header earlier this month.

Fishlock, Wales’ most-capped footballer with 134 appearances, has been named in a 26-strong squad for the first of three potential play-off ties against Bosnia and Herzegovina in Cardiff on October 6.

The 35-year-old midfielder has played just over half an hour for her American club OL Reign since missing Wales’ concluding group games against Greece and Slovenia through injury.

Wales v Slovenia – 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup Qualifying – Group I – Cardiff City Stadium
Wales head coach Gemma Grainger has named a 26-strong squad for the World Cup play-off against Bosnia and Herzegovina (Simon Galloway/PA)

Wales manager Gemma Grainger said: “From the moment she left us we contacted the club to make sure Jess was put in the centre of everything.

“These two weeks we want to look after her, as we did the last camp, to make sure she was in the middle of all our decisions.

“She’s had a fantastic time at her club since as they’ve secured a play-off spot.

“Jess has got a game this weekend, and then she’ll be jumping on that flight, and we’ll be looking forward to seeing her.”

Fishlock’s creativity was missed as Wales drew 0-0 with Slovenia in Cardiff to secure a World Cup play-off place.

But Grainger insisted it was the right decision to omit Fishlock from such a huge occasion, saying: “The important thing for us as a team is making the right decisions, and we won’t put our players at risk.

“The most important thing was what was right for Jess, for Wales, and for the club itself.

“Being at the stage she is in her career, we have to take care of her because her playing as long as she can is our number one priority.”

Veteran Aston Villa forward Natasha Harding is unavailable for personal reasons and replaced in the squad by Bristol City’s Chloe Bull.

The 103-times capped Harding has a senior leadership role within the group, but Grainger is confident the void created by her absence can be filled.

She said: “We have many players who have leadership qualities, on and off the pitch.

“Tash is one of them, but through this campaign we’ve had different players at different times.

“It gives us great confidence in our preparations, knowing the strength in the team. We’re in a really good position.”

Wales Women v Russia Women – FIFA 2019 Women’s World Cup – Qualifying – Group One – Newport Stadium
Wales are without Natasha Harding (left) for their World Cup play-off against Bosnia and Herzegovina due to personal reasons (Nick Potts/PA)

Wales are favourites to progress to a second play-off round away to Switzerland on October 11.

The two best-ranked play-off final winners will secure places at the 2023 World Cup, with the other victorious side going into inter-continental play-offs.

Wales are likely to be in the inter-continental play-offs in February should they beat Bosnia and Herzegovina and Switzerland.

Over 9,000 tickets have already been sold for the Bosnia and Herzegovina tie at the Cardiff City Stadium.

It has put Wales on track to beat their record attendance for a women’s home game, eclipsing the 12,741 crowd that saw the Slovenia draw on September 6.