Wales have made nation proud – boss Gemma Grainger

Wales manager Gemma Grainger says her players have made Wales proud after they reached the play-offs for a major tournament for the first time.

Tuesday’s tense 0-0 draw with Slovenia ensured Wales finished second in World Cup qualifying Group I.

Wales will be in the play-off draw on Friday as they dream of a place at the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

“I’m so pleased for the players, they deserve everything that they get,” Grainger told BBC Sport Wales.

“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.”

Grainger has been targeting a play-off berth since succeeding Jayne Ludlow as Wales manager, but now admits there is a desperation to go even further.

“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.”

Wales’ captain Sophie Ingle admitted the result was a career highlight as she represented Wales for the 120th time.

“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.”

Wales defender Rhiannon Roberts, who celebrated her 50th cap, added: “We came here to win, but we knew their strengths and nullified them.

“We’ve made the play-offs and hopefully we can get further. Everyone is buzzing.

“We know we should be qualifying for tournaments, so we’ll take it game by game now and hopefully get there.

“The crowd were unreal, every time we crossed halfway they roared us on, we can’t thank them enough.”

The crowd at the Cardiff City Stadium more than doubled Wales women’s previous record of 5,445.

Wales midfielder Angharad James, who won her 100th cap on the landmark occasion, felt the supporters helped to carry Wales over the line.

“It’s a surreal feeling to be playing in front of all these fans, they were our 12th player,” she said.

“I couldn’t be prouder of the group. They have worked so hard and to do it in front of this group is an unbelievable achievement – now on to the next one.”

James added that manager Grainger has helped to make the side believe they can achieve their goals.

“Gemma Grainger has given us all a lot of confidence,” she added.

“You could see the belief out there today. Hopefully there’s a lot more to come.”

World Cup play-offs – how do they work?

  • The nine teams which finished in second place in their qualifying groups are given a play-off spot.
  • The play-offs consist of a semi-final and final, both single-legged ties.
  • The matches will be played on Thursday, 6 October and Tuesday, 11 October.
  • Based on performances in qualifying, the three top seeded teams – Iceland, Republic of Ireland and Switzerland – are given a bye to the final, while the remaining six teams will be entered into the semi-final draw.
  • Wales and Scotland will be entered into the semi-final draw, which takes place on Friday. The other teams in the draw are Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Portugal.
  • Wales and Scotland could be drawn home or away and could play each other.
  • The three winning semi-finalists will play one of Iceland, Republic of Ireland or Switzerland in the final.
  • From the three final winners, the two highest seeded teams will qualify for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
  • The third seeded side will be entered into an Inter-Confederation Play-Off, which will take place in New Zealand in February 2023.

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