Boss Grainger plots for key World Cup qualifiers after encouraging Wales draw

·2-min read
HAPPY: Gemma Grainger was pleased with Wales' performance in their goalless draw with New Zealand ahead of the World Cup qualifiers
HAPPY: Gemma Grainger was pleased with Wales' performance in their goalless draw with New Zealand ahead of the World Cup qualifiers

WALES boss Gemma Grainger has pledged her players will be sharp for two key World Cup qualifiers in September after an encouraging draw against New Zealand.

The friendly in Pinatar, Spain, finished goalless but the manager liked what she saw ahead of the fixtures against Greece and Slovenia that can secure a play-off spot.

At 22, New Zealand are nine places higher than Wales in the FIFA world rankings and will be joint-hosts in 2023 along with Australia.

Wales, who had been away on a week’s training camp in south east Spain, created an early chance when an inch-perfect delivery from Chelsea midfielder Sophie Ingle found Natasha Harding on the right, but the former Reading forward saw her shot deflected just off target.

The Football Ferns threated late in the first half through a long-range shot from Elizabeth Anton before Meikayla Moore headed over from a corner.

In a game of few chances, which saw drinks breaks because of sweltering temperatures, New Zealand almost snatched a late victory when substitute Jacqui Hand’s header was pushed onto the crossbar by Wales goalkeeper Laura O’Sullivan.

"We will take so many positives. My instant reflection is around the changes we made and the impact they had,” said Grainger.

“To play higher-ranked opposition, and the mentality we have when we do that, we are making huge improvements.

"To come here and learn what we have on and off the pitch, we have definitely achieved our goals. We will reflect on that and put it into September's preparations.

"We are at the right place for us. The players go back to their clubs, continue with their pre-season and take care of themselves with the focus on coming back here in September.

"For me it will be about making sure I connect with individual players and building relationships with clubs to make sure we get the best out of them, and obviously making sure we are prepared for the opposition."

Wales travel to Greece on Friday, September 2 before they host Slovenia at Cardiff City Stadium on Tuesday, September 6.

France have already secured top spot and Wales have a two-point lead over Slovenia, who take on bottom nation Kazakhstan before heading to the capital.

Wales: Laura O’Sullivan, Rhiannon Roberts, Hayley Ladd (Josie Green 63), Gemma Evans, Rachel Rowe (Ffion Morgan 63), Sophie Ingle (captain, Anna Filbey), Angharad James, Carrie Jones (Lily Woodham), Natasha Harding (Megan Wynne), Kayleigh Green (Helen Ward), Ceri Holland.

Subs not used: Olivia Clark, Poppy Soper, Chloe Bull, Elise Hughes, Georgia Walters, Chloe Williams.

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