Wales bid for ‘ruthless’ win over Greece in World Cup qualifier before facing top seeds France four days later


Gemma Grainger’s Wales will be aiming for a 90-minute “ruthless” performance against Greece in Friday night’s World Cup qualifier before their most testing challenge yet in facing top seeds France just four days later.

Wales are in action against Greece at Parc y Scarlets on Friday, November 26 (7.15pm kick-off) before they travel away to Brittany on Tuesday, November 30 (8.10pm).

The women in red will be expected to put Grainger’s new attack-focused gameplan to good use and have plenty of the ball in Llanelli – where they hope to build on their impressive performance in a 4-0 win over Estonia last time out – but their defence will be tested to the extreme when facing France, who are ranked fifth in the world.

Wales are currently second in their qualifying group, two points behind France, and head into the double header unbeaten following three wins and a draw so far in the team’s bid to reach the 2023 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. It would mark their first major finals. Finishing as runners-up in Group I would give Wales a play-off spot.

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“Two different sets of preparation in terms of our mentality,” Grainger said of the upcoming two matches.

“What we’ve seen from Greece so far is they’ve got some really good strengths in possession, they’ve got some good players. We can see they’ve got some real qualities, and then we can see they’ve got some areas we want to try and exploit. We’ve been looking at how we build on our team performance but then how we can exploit the opposition as well.

“For us, the focus is always about being better at being us. We’re constantly setting our standards and expectations against ourselves.

“Although we know a little bit about Greece, the measure will be very much on how we perform. The focus will be to build on that consistently.”

Grainger admits an element of patience will have to factor into Wales’ mindset against Greece.

“We know that whether we get the early goal or whether we score goals late, we want to continue to be the same throughout the whole game. That mentality about being ruthless is something we want to do from the first minute to the last minute in games.”

Wales captain Sophie Ingle said: “Two completely different games, one being home as well. We should have a lot of the ball [against Greece] and we’re going to demand that of ourselves. These games against the types of teams like Greece are always tough. We’re expected to win but that’s not always the case and it’s not always as easy as people think it’s going to be.

“We’ve seen clips of them and they’re brave, they play out, they want to get on the ball which is great for a team like them, that they have the confidence to do that. But I think we’ve got enough strength in our forward line to prevent them from playing out and nicking balls higher up the pitch, for us to then go and counter-attack and get on the end of good crosses from our wide players.

“Once that game’s out of the way then we can focus on France. It’ll be more of a defensive game, I would imagine.”

Almost 4,000 tickets have been sold for Wales’ match against Greece, which is double the number of tickets sold for the campaign opener against Kazakhstan in Llanelli back in September, which saw the home crowd treated to a 6-0 win. Wales set a record for a home crowd for a women’s international in October for their 4-0 win over Estonia, when 5,455 fans turned out at Cardiff City Stadium.

“It’s amazing,” Ingle said of the attending fans and growing interest.

“All the team are so thankful that the fans want to come back. We’re gaining new fans. I know a lot of fans last game were first time, never been to a women’s game before. Hopefully they want to come back.

“I think when you hit a record crowd at Cardiff City Stadium and then you move stadiums to Llanelli, you’re not sure what type of crowd you’re going to get but if we’ve sold nearly 4,000 already, we’re quite close to that target from last game which is amazing, that the fans want to come back and support us.”

Part of the attraction may be watching Wales flourish as they are encouraged to be themselves both on and off the field, both by Grainger and by team-mates.

“The way we’re scoring goals as a team now, it’s expression, it’s individual, a bit of skill in there,” Ingle added. “It’s just about belief, that the girls are confident they can deliver to the gameplan that Gemma’s put in place for us.

“We always want to improve and I think that’s great within our squad. Even in training when we do a good pattern of play, we’re always speaking to each other saying ‘yes it was good but can we do better? Can we see a better pass? Can we hit the shot earlier?’

“We have those one-to-one conversations sometimes on the pitch. We’re always demanding more of each other and I think that showed in the qualifying games, that when it really matters, we’re getting the goals.

“We’re working every single day to be better than the last game. Yes, there were many positives from the last game but we still want to improve. Can we get more goals? Can we prevent the team from getting into our half as much?”

Grainger is without Rachel Rowe (hamstring) and Hannah Cain (ACL) but is otherwise set to select from a fully-fit squad, including Jess Fishlock, who has just been named most valued player in America’s National Women’s Soccer League.

“We knew when planning for this World Cup campaign that we would have to be adaptable,” Grainger added.

“While it has been nice in the first two camps to sit here and talk no major injuries, we have been prepared for this.

“We have shown in the last camp there are players ready to step into positions, it is nice to utilise the whole team. Everyone will have to play a part.”

Wales v Greece is being broadcast live on BBC Two Wales, with coverage beginning on Match of the Day Wales at 7pm.





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