Jayne Ludlow sat down with FAW.cymru recently to look ahead to the friendly international between Wales and Italy in Cesena on Tuesday, 22ndJanuary (5pm).
Italy v Wales
- KO 17:00 GMT
- Tuesday 22 January 2019
- Stadio Dino Manuzzi, Cesena
Live stream available through FAW social media channels
With Loren Dykes and centurion Jess Fishlock returning to the 24-player squad, Ludlow can count on a wealth of international experience for what will be a difficult test against an Italian side preparing to compete at the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup in the summer.
“It's important to get these players on camp with us,” explained Ludlow. “We only have a limited amount of time to work with the girls through the year, so every camp is massively important. Italy are a top team, a team that over the last three or four years have grown really, really well. Their results have shown that.”
Striker Kayleigh Green will train with the squad but will miss the match through suspension, while defender Hayley Ladd will earn her 50thcap for her country if she is selected. There are also four uncapped players named in the squad, including Emma Jones, who has recently returned to Wales with Cardiff City Ladies having played club football in the United States and Sweden.
Wales came up against Italy at the 2018 Cyprus Cup last March but suffered a 3-0 defeat in Larnaca. Striker Cristiana Girelli scored a brace before substitute Greta Adami completed the scoring. It was something of a disappointing display from Wales against the side that would eventually finish the tournament in second place.
“We did learn a lot from that game,” Ludlow reflected. “But that's what preparation games are all about. You fail in certain areas and then you have to change whatever has gone wrong. That Italy game, thinking back almost a year ago, taught us a lot of lessons that actually helped us in the last qualifying campaign, and this will be no different. It would be nice not to make the same sort of errors against them. We realise where their strengths are and we have to make sure we counteract them.”
Under manager Milena Bertolini, Italy have made significant strides forward over the last couple of years. The Azzurri will be focused on the challenge ahead as they continue their preparations before they head to France in the summer to compete at the World Cup finals.
“The manager there is doing a fantastic job,” Ludlow added. “They've been competitive against some of the top teams in the world, so for us to go there and compete, to stand up and be counted, is a challenge for us. They are going through a process, they want to play different types of opponents that will give them a certain type of test, and maybe we will give them something they haven't come up against recently.”