Sophie Ingle & Gemma Grainger: Wales Are Ready For France

Impetus’ Jean-Pierre Thiesset was in Wales’ pre-game media conference with captain Sophie Ingle and head coach Gemma Grainger for the game against France for us. Ben Gilby reviews the key points that were raised (8/4/22).

Above: Wales captain Sophie Ingle speaking to the media yesterday. Photo: FA Wales.

Wales captain Sophie Ingle sees tonight’s game against France in Llanelli as a real opportunity for her nation to show just how far they have come.

“France are one of the best teams in the world, so it’s a great test of who we are. We were incredible over there, but this time we need to see if we can do it again, but go one better in terms of a result.

“Defensively over there, we were solid more or less throughout. We were disappointed with the two goals that we conceded, but the character we showed in the second half when we went down to 10 players was great and we could have got a goal.”

Wales go into the World Cup qualifier on the back of a fourth-placed finish in the eight-nation Pinatar Cup in February – a positive achievement given the team went into the competition as the sixth highest-ranked team in the event. Ingle took so many positives from the experience.

“The Pinatar Cup was great for us to rotate the team and the young girls who came in really stepped up. We really have a bench now and strength in depth for the first time.”

The game tonight will be played once more in Llanelli, a location with a growing reputation for passionate fans of Welsh women’s football.

“Parc y Scarlets is starting to feel like a home for us now. We have a lot of fans in Llanelli who want to come to our games now and it looks like we’re going to have a record crowd this week as well.

“I can’t wait for the French to walk in and be hit by the atmosphere that we create in Wales. I don’t think they will expect it. They have a lot of fans, but do they expect us to have the sort of atmosphere that will be at Llanelli? I don’t think so!”

“These are the games that I love playing in. We’re little old Wales against France. We’re always the underdog. It’s about us showing who we are, individually and collectively.”

Sophie Ingle

Ingle recognizes that the growth of women’s sport in Wales is growing with increased investment leading to ever-improving national team performances in different sports. “I think it shows that when people back the women’s teams, look what they can do. Look at the Welsh women’s rugby team. Twelve of them have now been able to go professional and look how well they are doing in the Six Nations. It’s the same for us in the Welsh football team.”

The Welsh captain emphasized that Wales’ growing ability and achievements on the pitch are leading to increased expectations. “Our fans now, when we are playing the lower-ranked teams expect us to win four or five-nil and see us as a strong team against the top nations.”

Above: Wales head coach Gemma Grainger is positive ahead of tonight’s game with France. Photo: FA Wales.

Wales head coach Gemma Granger has set her sights on using the foundations of her team’s superb display in France in November to produce something special tonight.

“We’re focussed on building on that performance. These are the teams we want to play. It is about being better at being us. In November in France we were unlucky – a post width away from equalizing with only 10 players.

“We know that Friday’s game will be very different. France are the third-best team in the world. Our ambitions are to compete with them. It’s our mentality. It’s the next step in our journey, 12 months ago we were a very different team. It’s exciting seeing the belief that is pumping into the team.”

“Excited sums us up as a group. We’re riding off the back of the way that the nation is feeling about Welsh football at the moment. We respect France, but we want to be playing them in tournaments, start strong and build on it.”

Gemma Grainger

Grainger highlighted the impact that her player’s performance levels are having. “The amount of game time our players have across the squad for their clubs now really shows how we’re growing. When I first came into the role, we had 10, 15 players able to train on the first day as they hadn’t played for their clubs the day before. This week we only had four or five training on that Monday.”

Despite all the positivity in the Wales camp ahead of the game, Grainger recognizes that France pose her team a huge challenge.

“The individual strength that France have in their team is incredible. Most of them were playing in the Champions League last week. The level they play at, the athleticism. They have some of the world’s best players.”

“Marie-Antoinette Katoto is one of the most in-form strikers in Europe and we learned a lot playing against her in November, but you have to respect their entire team. They have strengths in lots of different areas. You can’t necessarily stop it, it’s about how you defend against it. If we can’t win the ball, it’s about how you deal with the crosses, first contact, second ball. We did that in November and need to do the same on Friday.”

It is not just the Welsh team who are an ever-growing force. The head coach identified her pride in the ever-increasing numbers of fans at their home games.

“One of the most positive things for us is the way we’re growing our supporter base. For the first qualifying game in September we had 1,700 fans at Parc y Scarlets and for us to know that there will be 4,000 or close to 5,000 there is a huge positive. It’s why we do what we do and inspire the next generation. It was noisy in September, so it will be really noisy on Friday!”

“When we went to France there were over 20,000 fans there. I want France to feel something similar when they walk out. They need to feel ‘Wow, we’re not at home,’ and we can take advantage of that.”

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