As Wales women lined up to play their final match of the Women’s World Cup Qualifiers in Pisa, they had a tough ask ahead of them. Ranked 7th in the tournament, they needed to be on their best form to beat number 1 seed Ireland.
With Wales having had a brilliant tournament so far – beating the Italian hosts and Scotland in their run to the final – and Ireland only narrowly beating Belarus the previous day, it was all to play for in the final game to decide who would earn the coveted 2022 World Cup spot.
Following an early penalty corner for Ireland, the Irish team took the lead in the 8th minute with a field goal from Anna O’Flanagan. However, they didn’t stay ahead for long. As the last quarter came to a close, Izzie Howell found the back of the net off a penalty corner to draw Wales even.
The second quarter saw two green cards and a penalty corner for Ireland, but the score remained 1-1 going into half time.
Wales dominated the last two quarters, forcing three penalty corners in the third but unfortunately failing to find that all important goal.
As the fourth quarter started, Wales were quickly down to just nine players as Phoebe Richards and Emily Rowlands received yellow and green cards respectively. Ireland saw their opportunity and took it – number 26, Anna O’Flanagan, scored her second goal of the match and put Ireland in the lead with just ten minutes left to play.
As the final whistle went, it was heartbreak for Wales. Ireland took the win by two goals to one, meaning the Irish girls won the tournament and qualified for the 2022 World Cup.
Although they will be disappointed with the final lose, Wales women had an amazing World Cup Qualifiers. Getting to the final was a great achievement – they beat some tough teams along the way and gave Ireland a run for their money for that World Cup place.
In testament to how well they played, goalie Rose Thomas was awarded goalkeeper of the tournament. Not much of a surprise thanks to some amazing saves in the shootout against Scotland in the semi-final.
A top two finish in these European Qualifiers will give their world rankings a real boost. There’s big things to come from this Welsh team as we look to 2022.