Jayne Ludlow will be hoping to make it third time lucky when her Cymru side take on Norway in Oslo on Tuesday, 22 September as UEFA EURO qualifying resumes after an extended break.
Norway v Cymru
UEFA Women's EURO 2022 Qualifying Round
- 17:00 Tuesday 22 September
- Ullevaal Stadion, Oslo
This will be the third meeting between the two nations since Ludlow was appointed manager, with Cymru suffering 4-0 and 2-0 defeats in October 2015 and June 2016 respectively. However, significant progress has been on and off the field made since those previous meetings, and Cymru are boosted by the return of influential midfielder Jess Fishlock for this crucial Group C fixture.
“It's been a long time coming but it's really positive that we're back on camp,” Ludlow explained. “We've been looking forward to getting back to our environment and doing the things that we know work well for us. Working together and pushing each other is a big part of what we do, and we have to do that with the opposition that we have in front of us.
“We've had a lot more time than usual to look at games in detail and the players that we're going to come up against, together with the different systems and structures, so in a way it's been positive as it's allowed us to prepare in a slightly different way. But there are certain things that could happen that are out of control. If negative things happen we have to adapt as best we can in those situations.”
Captain Sophie Ingle is set to earn her 100th international cap, joining Fishlock and Loren Dykes as the only Cymru centurions. “First and foremost she's our leader and she's our captain,” said Ludlow. “She's part of an experienced group of leaders that we have who work very well together. But there's so much more potential with her. Every time she steps onto the pitch with Wales we hope that we can help her increase her levels even higher. If she does that, she has a massive part to play in getting the results we need over the next few months.”
Norway are the current group leaders having won all of their opening four games in the group. Cymru remain undefeated following two wins and two draws at the midway point, and a positive result would offer a huge boost to the chances of qualifying for the finals that will take place in England in 2022. Under manager Martin Sjögren, Norway reached the last four of the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup, with Barcelona striker Caroline Graham Hansen the one to watch with 10 goals already in the current campaign.
“It's a big test as they have strength all through the team,” Ludlow added. “We have to prepare for any areas that could cause us a problem, but also areas that we can exploit as well. Whatever team we are preparing for we respect the opposition and prepare as best we can. It's proven that they score goals for fun, so we have to make sure our defensive structure and organisation is good. That's something that we pride ourselves on, but we need to create opportunities as well and we need to find ways to be able to do that.”
Cymru last took to the field back in March as the side claimed a 2-0 friendly win over Estonia at Wrexham, and while competitive action makes a welcome return this month, there will be no fans at the Ullevaal Stadion. However, Ludlow had one final message for the 'Red Wall'. “Keep supporting us because it's one thing that me and the girls absolutely love,” she explained. “The fans are a big part of what we do. We recognise that there are lot people supporting us and wanting us to do well, and that pushes our levels up every time we play.”
How qualifying works
Cymru currently sit in second place behind Norway in Group C. The nine group winners and the three runners-up with the best record against the sides first, third, fourth and fifth in their respective groups will join hosts England in the 16-team finals. The other six nations in the runners-up positions will play off for the remaining three qualification places.