Gemma Grainger's Cymru will take on New Zealand on Tuesday, 28 June as preparations continue ahead of the final two 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup qualifiers against Greece and Slovenia in September.
Cymru v New Zealand
- 18:00 BST Tuesday 28 June
- Pinatar Arena, Spain
Live on the BBC Sport website and iPlayer
The friendly international will take place in Pinatar, Spain as part of a busy June training camp which also included a two-day development camp prior to the senior squad departing for the Spanish municipality. “When we look at the June window we want to utilise our time most effectively,” Grainger explained at the squad announcement. “Last June we played Scotland and bringing the players in for ten days for one game was a lot. The majority of players are in pre-season, so we decided to flip it a little bit this time and have the two-day development camp which is the first of its kind for us. We know that squad depth is so important for any team and that's something we want to focus on.”
One omission from the camp is all-time record appearance holder Jess Fishlock, while Manchester United teenager Safia Middleton-Patel has been called-up for the first time as one of four goalkeepers in the senior squad. “Jess and I were having conversations at the beginning of the year about this camp because one of the things we want to do is manage individuals well,” Grainger added. “It was a sensible decision that Jess and I came to together. We want Jess to be able to perform from September onwards, and we knew that this was the right decision. Jess is an absolute professional in terms of everything she does and doing the right thing for Jess was the main reason for making this call.”
The last time Cymru played New Zealand was in June 2019 in Cardiff as a late goal from Kayleigh Green earned the side a 1-0 victory. The Football Ferns will take on Norway in Oslo in another international friendly on 25 June before heading to Spain, with head coach Jitka Klimková still looking for her first victory of 2022 having suffered defeats against Iceland, the United States and Australia twice, although the side did register a point at the SheBelieves Cup in February when the Czech Republic were held to a 0-0 draw. New Zealand are currently 22nd in the FIFA World Rankings while Cymru are in 31st place.
Cymru are currently in second place in Group I ahead of their final two games of the qualifying campaign, and Grainger was keen to emphasise how important this current international camp is as they push for a play-off place. “We will get the main squad together for six or seven days on the pitch before the game [against New Zealand] and that's really unique for us as we don't normally get the opportunity to coach them that much. We have to remember they are in pre-season and the physical team are making sure we don't do too much.
“However, we are preparing for September in these training sessions, and it has given us the time to get some detailed work in as the preparation for September starts now. The whole training camp is around us being better at being us, and that's a phrase that we've consistently used. The game against New Zealand is an international friendly so we know we can use six substitutions, so they will be utilised, but the reality for us is that we're very focused on September and there will certainly be a plan that is the most effective for us.”
Meanwhile, Grainger has spent the last couple of months reflecting on the campaign to date, while also enjoying the experience of witnessing the Cymru men's squad qualify for the World Cup finals in Qatar later this year. “It's been nice to have around six weeks between camps as it has given us the planning time that we needed,” she added. “We can use that [Ukraine game] as inspiration. Any opportunity I can get to go in with Rob [Page] and the team I take it as we have staff that work across both teams, and just to have that experience within our group inspires us. It was nice to be around the players as well as it was such a special game. It was a tough game for obvious reasons off the pitch, but on the pitch we did the job.”
On Tuesday 6 September, Cymru will be playing for their first ever spot in the FIFA Women's World Cup play-offs, and tickets for the match against Slovenia at the Cardiff City Stadium start at only £2 (group bookings) and £4 (individual bookings) for kids, available at faw.cymru/tickets.