“The aim of the tournament for us is to build on our performances,” explained manager Gemma Grainger as her Cymru side prepare to open the Pinatar Cup against holders Scotland on Wednesday, 16 February (2.30pm).
2022 Pinatar Cup
- Fixtures on 16, 19, 22 February
- Eight team tournament in south Spain
Competing in their first winter tournament since the Cyprus Cup in 2018, Cymru will play three games in the space of six days in southern Spain and Grainger has outlined a clear plan for the competition. “We want to make sure we perform in every single game and we will be utilising all of the players in different ways,” she explained. “I think it's an opportunity for us as a squad to see where we're at and to give individuals opportunities, but most importantly, it will all be based on what we want to do and reviewing how we perform. The process part is the main focus and the hope is that it will correlate with the result.”
Cymru have named a strong 26-player squad for the tournament headlined by centurions Jess Fishlock and captain Sophie Ingle. Meanwhile, Angharad James, Helen Ward and Natasha Harding have all played over 90 games for their country, and Ward could follow Fishlock, Ingle, Loren Dykes, Chris Gunter and Gareth Bale by becoming the latest Cymru player to make 100 appearances as the all-time leading goalscorer heads into the tournament on 97 caps. In addition, goalkeeper Laura O'Sullivan needs just one more appearance to earn her 50th senior international cap, while the versatile Rachel Rowe returns to the squad after injury.
“There are three games in six days which naturally brings a lot of preparation to execute what we want to in those games,” Grainger added. “But I do think this camp will have a different feel to it. It will be a little bit more relaxed in terms of us having discussions about what we have been doing well and what we need to improve. We're playing in a tournament where the majority of the teams are higher-ranked than us so it gives us another opportunity to see where we are and also work out over those three games what plan is going to be the most effective to help us in the [World Cup qualifying] campaign.”
Teenagers Poppy Soper, Esther Morgan, Morgan Rogers and Carrie Jones are all included at the other end of the appearance chart, and Grainger believes the experience will prove invaluable for her squad as she targets qualification for a major tournament. “There's the opportunity for us to see this as a tournament rehearsal,” she added. “It's going to be warmer and it gives us an opportunity to do things in a different way, not only in terms of coaching, but with the time we spend with the players and the things that we do, and I'm excited for that. I also want the players and staff to be in the mindset that we want to qualify for major tournaments and come into these environments more and more.”
Cymru return to 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup qualifying on 8 April with a huge match against Group I leaders France at Parc-y-Scarlets in Llanelli before the squad head to Kazakhstan a few days later. Currently sitting in second place after six games, Cymru are in a strong position with just four fixtures remaining. “We've reflected on the first part of the campaign and we're very much focused on how this next camp can support us moving into the April fixtures,” Grainger explained. “I'm really looking forward to seeing the players again, and getting together as a team is something that we're all looking forward to.”
Scotland won the inaugural four-team Pinatar Cup when it was first played prior to the start of the pandemic in March 2020 under former manager Shelley Kerr, and her permanent successor Pedro Martínez Losa will be keen to repeat the achievement in his home country following his appointment last July. Prior to his arrival, Scotland claimed a narrow 1-0 victory over Cymru in an international challenge match in Llanelli through a goal from Erin Cuthbert, and the Chelsea midfielder is again included in the Scotland squad.
Now expanded to an eight-team competition, the 2022 edition of the Pinatar Cup has a knock-out format with placement matches guaranteeing each team three games. Cymru’s second match will be against either Belgium or Slovakia on Saturday, 19 February, before a third match against either Russia, Poland, Republic of Ireland, Hungary on Tuesday, 22 February, completes the tournament.