Gemma Grainger confident of leading Wales to a major tournament after new deal

Gemma Grainger is confident of leading Wales to a first major women’s tournament after extending her stay as national team manager.

Grainger has signed a two-year contract extension to stay until 2027, meaning she will be in charge for the 2025 European Championship and 2027 World Cup qualifying campaigns.

“I am so passionate of our long-term plan here and what we have to do. It was a really easy decision (to stay),” said Grainger, who had been the subject of interest elsewhere before committing to Wales.

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“We got close to World Cup qualification. But close isn’t going to be good enough for us, we believe we can do it.

“I’m ambitious, we’re ambitious and we want to make sure this team can fulfil their potential and qualify for that first major tournament.

“The contract extension is great for me, and a sign that the players and staff here are right on track.

“We’ve reviewed the World Cup campaign and now it’s about looking forward to Euros qualifying.”

Middlesbrough-born Grainger, who previously coached various England women’s development teams, succeeded Jayne Ludlow in March 2021.

Wales were second in their 2023 World Cup qualifying group and reached a play-off for the first time.

Wales v Bosnia and Herzegovina – FIFA Women’s World Cup – UEFA Qualifier – Cardiff City Stadium
Wales celebrated Jess Fishlock’s play-off winner against Bosnia and Herzegovina before ultimately missing out on World Cup qualification (Bradley Collyer/PA)

A record crowd of 15,200 saw Wales beat Bosnia and Herzegovina in Cardiff before they fell at the final play-off hurdle in October, losing 2-1 to Switzerland in Zurich.

Grainger said: “We know the margins are fine because there are 16 places open to qualify for the European Championship – and we are currently ranked 21st in Europe.

“I’d love to see those places grow to 24 as it is in the men’s game.

“It’s not so much equality between the men and women, it’s about the women’s game growing.

“Increasing to 24 teams in the near future would further help the level of competition in the women’s game in Europe, which I believe is the most competitive continent in the women’s game.”

Wales return to action next month at the Pinatar Cup in Spain, where they will play the Philippines, Iceland and Scotland in a four-team tournament.

Wales v Slovenia – 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup Qualifying – Group I – Cardiff City Stadium
Wales women’s team played in front of record crowds during 2023 World Cup qualification (Simon Galloway/PA)

The tournament will serve as preparation for the 2025 European Championship qualifiers, the draw for which will be made in the spring.

Football Association of Wales chief executive Noel Mooney said of Grainger’s new deal: “We have made huge strides with the women’s national team and our focus now is firmly on qualifying for UEFA Euro 2025 and the 2027 FIFA World Cup.

“This group has captured the imagination of the Welsh public and we have no doubt they will break new glass ceilings for Welsh football in the coming years.”