Even though Wales wasn’t actually at the World Cup in Russia, we still thoroughly enjoyed what turned out to be a spectacular tournament. The England team restored some pride in home nations football having reached the semi-finals.
You would be forgiven for believing that the next World Cup is four years away. You’d be wrong, because next year sees the Women’s World Cup held in France and the Welsh ladies are within a whisker of qualifying for the first time in history.
One Win Away
After seven games of qualifying, Wales sit top of the qualifying group with 17 points with just one game left to play and are guaranteed at least a play-off spot. Win the last game and Jayne Ludlow’s ladies are there.
Who do they play?
Newport County’s Rodney Parade hosts the biggest game in Women’s Welsh football history on Friday 31 August. Phil Neville’s Lionesses sit a point behind with a game-in-hand, which they are firm favourites to win against Kazakhstan on Tuesday 4 September.
What Would Qualification Mean to Wales?
Qualification for the World Cup could not, and should not, be understated. Having failed to qualify for any major tournament, reaching France could hopefully see a major surge in popularity for female football in the country.
The men’s team did us proud at Euro 2016, so seeing some of that success replicated next summer would be great for young girls looking for their own role models. Success could see a spike in girls wanting to play football, clubs looking to invest in artificial pitches to accommodate the rise in demand and more coaches coming through the ranks to help develop young hopefuls looking to fulfil their own dreams.
Over in England, women’s football has seen a tremendous amount of support in recent years, with the 2018 Women’s FA Cup final saw a record attendance of 45,423 turn out at Wembley Stadium to watch Chelsea defeat Arsenal 3-1. On top of that, 70,584 were in attendance at Wembley as Great Britain’s women’s defeated Brazil 1-0 at the 2012 Olympic Games.
Rodney Parade holds just 8,700, limited to 7,850 for football, in comparison. In 10 years time, we could be looking back and laughing at how such a small stadium could ever be considered as a viable host for our national side.
The Women’s World Cup in France
Of course, we love any chance that we can get to travel, so the possibility of Wales being at next year’s World Cup presents tourist opportunities. Of course, those who followed the men at Euro 2016 will have already explored France, who the tournament, although only two of the venues (Parc des Princes and Parc Olympique Lyonnais) will be used across both.
That means that there is still plenty of opportunities to explore new stadiums and cities. The nine host cities for the 2019 Women’s World Cup are:
* Le Havre
The tournament begins on 7 June and ends exactly a month later on 7 July, when the final is held in Lyon at the 59,186-capacity Parc Olympique Lyonnais. Who knows, maybe Wales can cause one of the biggest sporting upsets of our time and go all the way?
Let’s get qualified first, before getting too excited and claiming it’s coming home…
Good luck girls and, whatever happens, we are proud of you!