Wales won’t get carried away by start to World Cup qualifying – Gemma Grainger

Manager Gemma Grainger heads into World Cup qualifying battle determined Wales do not get carried away by their best start to a tournament campaign.

Last month, Wales opened up with 6-0 and 1-0 wins over Kazakhstan and Estonia to fuel optimism of reaching a first major finals at the 2023 Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

Wales are back in Group I action in Slovenia on Friday night – the team’s 200th official match – before entertaining Estonia in Cardiff on Tuesday.

Wales Women v Scotland Women – International Friendly – Parc y Scarlets
Wales manager Gemma Grainger is aiming to build on a fast start to World Cup qualification (Bradley Collyer/PA)

Grainger said: “In the September window the nerves were probably there because we knew our potential but we had not quite delivered that in a qualification game.

“Now we’ve got those two wins under our belt we go into the third game knowing what we’re capable of, and what team we want to be moving forward.

“The momentum’s important but we don’t need to get carried away. We just have to focus on these two games and assess where we are from there.

“We wanted those fixtures at the start. But it’s well and good having those fixtures, the players have to take credit for those results.”

France are the favourites to win the group and take the automatic qualification spot on offer, with Wales the second highest ranked team.

But France needed a penalty in the fourth minute of stoppage time to beat Slovenia 3-2 last month.

“I wasn’t surprised by that game,” said Grainger, who spent 11 years working across England development teams before her Wales appointment in March.

“I’ve watched a lot of Slovenia and been a member of coaching staffs that has played them in the past.

“They are a strong nation in terms of their playing identity and have been an up and coming nation for the last three or four years.

“But for us it’s about building on those two performances and wanting to compete and qualify for major tournaments.

“We’re very early in terms of our four-year journey, but the aim is to keep getting better with each passing game.

“We benchmark ourselves against teams that have qualified previously and that’s a real performance indicator for us.

“We have data around 20 different benchmarks and it gives us a real guide of how we’re travelling in the right direction.

“The stats don’t always equal three points, but it’s a real indicator of performance and gives you a better chance of getting results.”

Captain Sophie Ingle, like celebrated teammate Jess Fishlock, has featured in over half the games that Wales have ever played.

The versatile Chelsea defender or midfielder will win her 109th cap at Lendava’s Sportni Park on Friday.

Wales v Canada – Women’s International Friendly – Leckwith Stadium
Wales captain Sophie Ingle will win her 109th cap in Slovenia on Friday (Nick Potts/PA)

Ingle said: “We’ve been building for the last few years and it’s about our youth coming through now.

“Some of our girls are incredible at such a young age because they’re in good environments at their clubs.

“They come into our national team and they’re nearly ready to be a starting player at the age of 18 or 19.

“It’s amazing for us because we have more options and depth within the squad and that means we can push on and qualify.”