History Makers & Record Breakers: Wales Make Play-Offs For First Time

Wales 0-0 Slovenia

by Martin Townley at the Cardiff City Stadium (7/9/22)

Above: Post-match scenes of delight among the Welsh players. Photo: FAW.

It was an historic night in Cardiff as Gemma Grainger’s Wales side made history making it to the World Cup play-offs for the first time.  Needing just a point in front of a record crowd of 12,741 for a women’s football match in Wales, the side drew 0-0 with Slovenia.

Before kick-off as Zombie Nation blasted around the stadium, the heavens opened and rain cam hammering down on Cardiff City Stadium.  The rain didn’t damper the home crowd who belted out Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau

Wales, knowing that a draw was enough to see them reach the play-offs, were cautious in their play.  They moved the ball patiently and did not commit too many players forward as they clearly were aware of Slovenia’s quick counter attacking style.

With so much on the line for both nations the game was tense, and the opening minutes showed both side struggling to get into their rhythms.

Slovenia captain Mateja Zver had the best chance of the early exchanges, latching onto a loose pass and trying a shot from the edge of the box.  Her shot was straight at Laura O’Sullivan and the Wales keeper parried it down before dropping on the ball. 

Carrie Jones out wide was Wales most dangerous player and she cut inside the box and hit a shot straight at Zara Mersnik. Jones was brought down on the edge of the box, but ref plays on.  Moments later and the same player had the ball on the edge of the box and curled a shot over the bar.  

A Rhiannon Roberts cross from the right was caught on the volley by Jones.  The effort whisked across goal where Kayleigh Green was sliding in, but she couldn’t connect. 

In the 70th minute Zara Mersnik pulled off two fantastic saves from a Jones shot then from Gemma Evans’ close range header. 

Above: Hayley Ladd in action for Wales last night. Photo: FAW.

Wales were managing the later stages of the game well with Roberts keeping the ball deep in the Slovenia half.  There was time for one last chance for the visitors however, when a ball over the Welsh defence needed Laura O’Sullivan to smother bravely. 

Slovenia couldn’t find the goal they needed, and the final whistle blew to huge cheers around the stadium. 

Wales make the play-offs for the first time after missing out in their final game in 2018, losing to England 3-0 after leading the group.  Then again in 2019 they narrowly failed after a home 2-2 draw with Northern Ireland gave the visitors a better head-to-head record.

Wales manager Gemma Grainger was delighted after the game: “I’m so pleased for the players, they deserve everything that they get. It has been an exceptional campaign. We have developed.

“I couldn’t be prouder of the players. The players need to take all the credit, the 12,000 supporters here tonight were behind us, and we fed off that. Now we want even more. We don’t mind who we get in the draw, we don’t have a preference. We will look at the play-offs as game 11 and game 12, but we can at least talk about them now.”

Wales will be in the draw for the playoffs on Friday 9th September and Grainger continued: “I am pleased for the players, for them it has been a long-time coming. In terms of growing the game and making people fall in love with the team… it’s been a special night. I didn’t let myself think about this moment, but we inspired 12,000 people, that’s incredible.”

Captain Sophie Ingle also praised the record-breaking crowd. “I’m ecstatic, we dug deep, they’re a great team, a physical team, and they battled until the end,” she said. “I don’t know how we didn’t score, but we got the result we needed. A lot of family and friends are here and the fans, over 12,000… it’s amazing.”

Teams: WALES (5-3-2): O’Sullivan, Evans, Ingle, Roberts, James, Green, Harding, Rowe, Ladd, Holland, Jones. Substitutes: Clark, Middleton-Patel, Woodham, Green, Ward, Fishlock, Hughes, Estcourt, Walters, Wynne, Fibley, Morgan.

SLOVENIA (4-3-2-1): Mersnik, Golob, Agrez, Korosec, Zver, Conc, Prasnikar, Kolbl, Erzen, Rogan. Substitutes: Galjot, Nemet, Gradisek, Rozmaric, Klopcic, Kustrin, Makovec, Krizaj, Milovic, Babnik, Vindisar.

Referee: Kateryna Monzul.

Attendance: 12,741

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