Gemma Grainger's Cymru take on the Republic of Ireland on Tuesday (2.30pm) in their final match of the Pinatar Cup to decide which teams will finish in 3rd and 4th place at the tournament.
2022 Pinatar Cup
Cymru v Republic of Ireland
- Tuesday 22 February 14:30
- Pinatar Arena, Spain
- Live on BBC iPlayer & BBC Sport website
Cymru narrowly missed out on a place in the final following a penalty shoot-pout defeat to Belgium on Saturday evening after holding the highest-ranked team in the competition to a 0-0 draw. However, the Red Flames edged the shoot-out 3-1 and they will now take on Russia in the final on Tuesday. Despite the defeat, it have been a number of positives for Grainger to take from the opening two games of the tournament, and the aim now is to finish on a high and claim 3rd place.
"I thought it was an unbelievable performance,” explained Grainger following the match against Belgium. “It is really building belief in this group. This tournament was about building belief and momentum and that is what we have done. We have won our first game and drawn our second game against teams used to playing at major tournaments. It is such a proud moment for us as a group that our young players are stepping up and delivering in games.”
Chloe Williams came off the bench against Belgium for her first senior international appearance as the 21-year old midfielder replaced Jess Fishlock, while goalkeeper Olivia Clark was handed her first start. “I'm buzzing with a clean sheet,” Clark explained after the match. “We're obviously gutted to lose on penalties but the girls played really well. The performance showed where we're going, we've made a lot of improvements under Gemma. We had that defensive solidity again and going forward we had chances, and this tournament shows how far we've come.”
The Republic of Ireland defeated Poland 2-1 in their opening match of the competition through goals from Lucy Quinn and Louise Quinn, but were defeated 1-0 by Russia in the other semi-final on Saturday. Manager Vera Pauw highlighted prior to the competition the importance of using the three games to offer as many players in her squad minutes on the field. “This is a friendly tournament and we're very happy that we have three games,” Pauw explained to the official ROI website. “You need to grow as a team to be able to qualify [for major tournaments]. It is the whole team, not just 27 players but also the stand-by players who put energy in so the whole group is going to another level.”
Niamh Fahey became the fourth female centurion for the Republic of Ireland in the win over Poland, but Cymru striker Helen Ward will have to wait a little while longer to reach that particular milestone. The all-time leading goalscorer made her 98th appearance in the opening victory over Scotland last Wednesday, but was an unused substitute against Belgium, and she is now expected to earn her 99th cap against the Republic of Ireland on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Grainger is expected to make further changes for the third and final match of the tournament, and those on the fringes of the team will be desperate to impress ahead of the return to 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup qualifying in April.
Cymru currently sit second in Group I and take on leaders France at Parc-y-Scarlets on 8th April, before making the long journey to Kazakhstan four days later. A narrow 2-0 defeat to France in Guingamp back in November was another indication of how far the team have progressed during the course of the current qualifying campaign, and competing at the Pinatar Cup has proved invaluable in terms of preparation for the final four group games. The Republic of Ireland also sit second in Group A, and they return to qualifying action against group leaders Sweden in April.