Wales Women boss names first squad in 'fresh start' for Euro bid

Wilkinson has told ITV Wales previously that her main priority is helping the players "get over the final hurdle" as they target qualification for a first major tournament. Credit: PA

Wales Women head coach Rhian Wilkinson has injected a wave of youth into the first squad of her tenure which she hopes will be the difference in qualifying for the side's first major women's football tournament.Former Canada international Wilkinson, who took over from Gemma Grainger in February, has named a 26-player Wales squad for the first two games of the Euro qualifying campaign.

Wales kick off their campaign against Croatia at home at Wrexham's Racecourse Ground on Friday, 5 April, before playing Kosovo away on Tuesday, 9 April.

Jess Fishlock was previously the first footballer to get 100 caps for Wales. Credit: FAW

Wales' most-capped footballer Jess Fishlock will become the first player to reach 150 Wales appearances if she plays in both matches.

Fellow senior stalwarts including Sophie Ingle and Angharad James take their place in the squad, while Wilkinson has also selected five youngsters for their first full senior camp: Soffia Kelly, Mayzee Davies, Elena Cole, Mared Griffiths and Ania Denham.

Safia Middleton-Patel and Carrie Jones are unavailable due to injury.

Wales boss Wilkinson, who took over after her predecessor Grainger left for Norway, is bidding to guide the team to qualification for their first major tournament after they came agonisingly close to qualifying for the last World Cup, losing out in the final minute of a qualifying play-off final to Switzerland.

Wales narrowly missed out on qualification for last year's Women's World Cup, losing in the play-off final. Credit: PA Images

Wilkinson said: "It is a real pleasure as a coach to come in to a team that is so clear on what they're trying to achieve.

"There are the tactics and winning on the field, but when you don't have to motivate, it's a lot easier to get things going, so I'm very grateful to them for the work they're doing."It is a wonderful opportunity to almost have a fresh start - they don't need to start afresh with everything, but there is a new person here who is excited, maybe has different ideas and is ready to jump in with them."

As for the fresh injection of youth, Wilkinson added: "I'm very clear, this senior group of players will not qualify for the Euros without this youth movement. We need our young players to show up, to feel like this Welsh senior team is as much theirs as it is Sophie Ingle's, Jess Fishlock's. It's their team as well, even though they may only have been there for six months, two weeks, a year."

"We need them to step on the field with the confidence to be able to deliver. My message to them is ask the questions you need to ask, show up, be brave and I'll have their back, as I would to any player in camp."

Tickets for Wales v Croatia – which will be the first time the side have played in Wrexham in four years – are priced at £10 for adults and £5 for children.

Wales beat the Republic of Ireland in February. Credit: PA Images

Upon being appointed Wales' head coach last month, Wilkinson told ITV Wales that her main priority is helping the players "get over the final hurdle" as they target qualification for a first major tournament.

Wilkinson said: "I have had a lot of experience and I'm hoping to bring some of that knowledge I gained to this Welsh team."

Rhian Wilkinson poses with a Wales shirt after being appointed head coach last month. Credit: Football Association of Wales

Wales: Olivia Clark, Laura O’Sullivan, Soffia Kelly, Rhiannon Roberts, Charlie Estcourt, Josie Green, Hayley Ladd, Gemma Evans, Mayzee Davies, Lily Woodham, Ella Powell, Sophie Ingle, Alice Griffiths, Angharad James, Elena Cole, Lois Joel, Rachel Rowe, Ffion Morgan, Jess Fishlock, Ceri Holland, Ellen Jones, Elise Hughes, Mary McAteer, Kayleigh Barton, Mared Griffiths, Ania Denham.

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