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Third place a realistic target.....
 Women's Football News 18 Sep 2009
Third place a realistic target..... - 18 Sep 2009 - Women's Football NewsIt seems like such a long time since we have played competitive football for Wales and then two games come along in a week! 
We take on Belgium and Czech Republic in the first games in our World Cup qualifying group, both at home.
For a change, we face familiar opposition in Belgium this Sunday. I actually thought that Belgium were one of the strongest sides we played in our UEFA Championship qualifying group and they are going to be big, strong and fit when we come up against them. They took us by surprise but we only lost 1-0 both times and I don't really expect anything different this time, hopefully we can handle it better. They have a good captain and 'robotic machine' midfielders who just seem to be everywhere - a typical continental team really.
In contrast, I have never played against the Czech Republic before but they are seeded second in our group so are obviously a very good side. They only just missed out on the Euro Finals and drew with England so it won't be an easy game for us as, on paper, they will be harder than Belgium.
However the main focus is on ourselves and we'll have learnt a lot from last time. We seem to be going forward in the way we play and are a lot more confident on the ball, which will hopefully give us more possession.
It's good to see our best player Jayne Ludlow back with us for the games. Even though we beat Slovenia 3-0 last month, her presence was missing and it is much better for Wales that she plays as she gives us so much in midfield. Helen Lander will also be back for what is her first competitive game for us, so that is good for her and Kerrie Manley returns as well. Our squad is getting older and more experienced which is good, and I am pleased about that!
Gwennan Harries' move to Everton has been a big boost for her and Wales and, while she has always performed well for us, it is great that she is scoring goals for club and country.
In our last qualifying campaign, we didn't get any points but we can put that down to inexperience and playing in a very strong group, which provided two of the last four in the Finals. This time, I think that finishing third is a realistic target for us, if that is not the case then we would be disappointed. Hopefully we can pick up points against the Czechs, which would be a bonus, but beating teams like Belgium and Azerbaijan is something we should be aiming for. It's still a hard group, but maybe not quite as hard as the last one we played in.
I have been watching the Euro 2009 Finals in the past few weeks and overall it was a good tournament. It was good to see teams like Finland do well and the same for Holland - and even for Sweden to go out early when they did. Different teams went with their own tactics and way of playing and there were a lot of funny results, but that is good for women's football.
Getting to the Final will be brilliant for the game in England, as it probably exceeded their expectations ahead of the tournament. I thought they played well in the Final and every player gave everything on the day, but Germany stepped up a gear in the second half and that was too much. Sometimes you have got to hold your hand up and say you lost to a better team, don't forget the Germans knocked us out as well!
We must aim for that one day and set our sights high, otherwise there would be nothing to achieve. I am not being critical of anyone but we do need more backing, not just financially but in terms of a fan base and general interest. The Under-19s have come close to qualifying for Finals and talented youngsters are coming through, but the senior team is not that old and that only bodes well for our future.

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