Tough at the top?


There will to be no December magic for the Welsh Women’s side this year, as Gemma Grainger’s side have slumped to relegation from Group A3 of their UEFA Women’s Nations League.

Life at the top table was always going to be tough for the Welsh, but a string of successive defeats has now consigned them to a lower tier.

Grainger knew that, on a cold night in Cardiff last week, her side had to overcome an Icelandic side who had pipped them by a single goal in September if they were to avoid relegation.

A two goal triumph in the capital would probably have seen Wales avoid the drop, but they fell behind to an untidy goal on 29 minutes. Hayley Ladd’s tangle in the box saw Hildur Antonsdóttir poke the ball past Olivia Clark to give visiting coach Þorsteinn Halldórsson’s team the lead against the run of play.

A super strike later from Dilja Zomers sealed the Welsh fate in front of 5,725 freezing fans. Perhaps we could question the marking that gave the visitors the space to create the opening but no questions about the quality of the strike.

Wales restored some pride by holding Germany 0-0 in Swansea on Tuesday in a tie which saw established names like Kayleigh Green and Ceri Holland start on the bench. Germany are ranked fourth in the world so, make no mistake, this was a decent result for Wales. Is it too little too late though after a tough campaign? Only time will tell. Almost 6,000 present for this game again by the way.

Off the field, the female influence in Welsh football continues to grow.  The Football Association of Wales and BBC Cymru Wales marked the first  year of their five-year broadcast partnership deal for Cymru’s international Women’s Football games at an event before the Iceland game.

Business and sporting leaders from across Wales and beyond attended the event, entitled ‘With Her. For Her’, with each attendee invited to bring a future leader as a guest. The focus was firmly on  supporting and encouraging the leaders of the future and guests were treated to a discussion by a panel of experts.

Wales’s first ever Future Generations Commissioner, Sophie Howe, has recently joined the Football Association of Wales (FAW) as a sustainability advisor while Haverfordwest County AFC have ALSO pulled off a major coup in attracting Beccy Nuttall to the club to as Chief Operating Officer. Beccy makes the switch from Cardiff MET, where she has been a major force behind the scenes.

As far as on-field fortunes go, Grainger is adamant that her team has benefitted from rubbing shoulders with the game’s elite, esepecially after holding the mighty Germans, but regular defeats offer limited encouragement. With many of Wales’ Golden Generation on the wrong side of 30 – superstar Jess Fishlock will be 37 in January – some commentators feel that it’s time for some new blood. This could even mean a change at the top.

Elise Hughes (22) grabbed her first international goal with a late header against Iceland and the likes of Hannah Caine (24) are also ready and waiting. Even youngsters such as Phoebe Poole at Cheltenham could stake a claim in the near future.

Whether that future sees Grainger continue to lead the Welsh side though is perhaps open to question.





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