Cymru manager Gemma Grainger believes another big crowd at the Cardiff City Stadium can help move her side another step closer to the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup finals as preparations for the Play-Off against Bosnia and Herzegovina in the capital on 6 October begin.
“We see it as a favourable draw for a number of reasons really,” explained Grainger following the draw at UEFA on Friday. “The home draw was the best possible draw that we could have had. We always want to play at home, especially after the Slovenia game with the crowd there and we want to make sure that we build on that. Bosnia, being the lowest-ranked team, provides its own challenges. I can see why drawing the lowest-ranked team can be seen as a competitive advantage, but actually they will provide us with difficult opposition for different reasons.”
Cymru qualified for the Play-Offs as runners-up in Group I following a 0-0 draw with Slovenia in the final round of games. A record-breaking 12,741 fans were in attendance at the Cardiff City Stadium and Grainger highlighted the importance of that support. “It was incredible,” she added. “The supporters really made a huge impact in the game. Hearing them from the very first moment to the last really helped us to get over the line and we’re hoping that will continue.”
The last time that Cymru met Bosnia and Herzegovina was in 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifying when the two nations were drawn together in Group 1. Kayleigh Green was the hero for Cymru in both games as the striker scored the only goals in the respective 1-0 victories. This is the first time that Cymru have qualified for the Play-Offs of a major tournament and the importance of the match cannot be underestimated after the work that Grainger and her squad have put into the campaign.
The winners of the match between Cymru and Bosnia and Herzegovina will then take on Switzerland away from home in Round 2 of the Play-Offs on 11 October. Should Cymru make it through both games, a further Inter-confederation Play-Off in New Zealand next February will be the most-likely scenario to decide which teams progress to the finals that will be played in Australia and New Zealand next summer.
“It’s not straight-forward,” Grainger acknowledged. “It’s a complex qualification process and it is one of the most complex qualification processes I’ve ever been involved in. It’s one of the hardest ways to qualify for the World Cup in terms of what the qualification process looks like, the length of it, and also the quality of teams that we have in Europe. But we’re ready to go and we have a plan. Our team have done an amazing job off the field to make sure that we’re in a position following the draw to hit the ground running.”
It was a significant night for women’s football in Wales against Slovenia and the team responded by claiming the crucial point needed to confirm their Play-Off place. The attendance more than doubled the previous record for a Cymru women’s home international and the same level of support against Bosnia and Herzegovina will again be crucial. Tickets are now on sale and another fantastic atmosphere can play a crucial part in the side moving one step closer to their first appearance at the finals of a major tournament.
FIFA WWC PLAY-OFFS
Cymru v Bosnia & Herzegovina
- 19:15 Thursday 6 October
- Cardiff City Stadium
- Tickets available here