Wales may have narrowly missed out on a place at the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup finals, but as Jayne Ludlow's side prepare to take on Portugal in two international friendlies, striker Kayleigh Green believes the side has a very bright future ahead.
INTERNATIONAL FRIENDLY MATCH
Portugal v Wales
- 10 November, Municipal Stadium Rio Maior (18:00)
- 13 November, Municipal Stadium Cova De Piedade (15:00)
“We showed so much passion, so much belief, so much determination and so much character in those qualifiers,” Green explained to FAW.cymru at the team base this week. “We now need to take that into the next campaign, and hopefully we'll be able to achieve something then. For a small nation, we're very confident. We've got a lot of young players coming through alongside our experienced players, and those young players are pushing us on that little bit more.”
A 3-0 defeat to England in Newport back in August in the final group game was Wales' only loss of the qualifying campaign, but it proved to be a crucial one, as it was Phil Neville's Lionesses that booked their place in France next summer ahead of Wales. Attentions will now turn to qualifying for the 2021 UEFA Women's EURO finals that begin next September, and making sure that the side go one better next time.
“For me it was about how well we did as a nation,” Green replied when asked to reflect on the campaign as a whole. “We went into it looking at second place, but for the majority of the time we were top. The last game just didn't go our way, but on the whole it was a massive positive for us. Also, to sell out Rodney Parade within 24 hours, we've never had that as a nation. That just shows how far we've come. People are looking at us in a different way now.”
However, the emotions were very different in the days and weeks that followed the defeat. “It was emotional,” added Green, who was Wales' top scorer in the campaign. “It touched a lot of people on a personal level. It took me a few weeks to get over it because we fought so hard, and it came down to one game where we could have made history. Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be. Even going back to club football, it still took a while to sink in. It's important now that we rebuild, stick together and keep working.”
Another big positive of the qualifying campaign for Green was the increased media interest and support from the Welsh public, and she emphasised what an important role they played in the whole experience. “It was massive for us,” she explained. “We couldn't have asked for more. For the match against Russia in particular, the support was fantastic. For me, that was the moment I knew our nation had grown. There was so much interest and so many people were left devastated because they couldn't get tickets. That really pushed us on.”
Now enjoying her club football with Brighton & Hove Albion having recently secured her first full-time contract, Green's international ambitions have never been stronger as she looks to the future. Over the course of the next week, Ludlow's team will play two friendlies against Portugal, with the games taking place on 10th and 13th November. “There's things we'll take away from the last campaign to learn from and develop,” Green explained. “And that's what we'll be working on when we take on Portugal. I think they will be a good test for us. We have a young squad, but we're going there to win. We want to keep building.”