They may have moved up to a new high of second in the FIFA world rankings but Reading Women midfielder Fara Williams has warned her England teammates of the threat posed by Wales this Friday!
England's ranking has improved after they finished runners-up in the SheBelieves Cup earlier this month in America as Phil Neville's side impressed in his first three games in charge.
England’s women are now Europe's top-ranked side behind reigning world champions USA – but with a crunch World Cup qualifier against Wales at Southampton’s St Mary’s Stadium on Friday 6th April on the horizon – Williams has called for more of the same from Neville’s Lionesses.
“The Wales manager, Jayne Ludlow, as a player was hard-working, aggressive, a team player and was very athletic, so I would expect that she wants her squad to be like that,” said Williams.
“She’ll want her players to get around the pitch and I would think that they’re going to do that against us. The Welsh players that we have here at Reading are very fit, very physical and very athletic, so I would expect them to be like that and cause us problems."
Williams has played more than 150 times for England and so knows a thing or two about competing on the international stage – and has told her international colleagues to expect a hungry and motivated Wales in Southampton.
“We’ll have to ride that storm in the first 20 minutes but hopefully our quality will shine through in the end.
“It’s a really important game for us. We need three points on the board and we want to qualify as early as we can for this World Cup so, for us, it’s an important one.
“It’s a tough game. I’m very familiar with a lot of their players because most of them are playing in the FA WSL1. But we’re well prepared for this game and determined.”
England last played in Southampton in 2006, beating Hungary 2-0 in a World Cup qualifier with goals from Vicky Exley and Alex Scott. And the Lionesses kicked off their qualification campaign in style with a 6-0 win over Russia in September and Williams has called for more of the same on the south coast.
“St Mary's is a fantastic stadium,” she continued. “It’s a lovely pitch and hopefully, we’ll have a big crowd – we’ll do all we can to get them there. England versus Wales...what a game to come and watch and hopefully they do come out and watch!
“Wales are top of the group at the minute, so we want to get the three points, get ourselves to the top and qualify as quickly as we can. Every game is important for us but Wales is a little different. I’m sure they’ll favour themselves, knowing most of our players.
“We now need to go and show how far this England team has come.
“We competed with the likes of Germany, the United States and France in the SheBelieves Cup and I think it was an eye-opener for the manager and it gave him a real taste of where we’re at in comparison to the best teams in the world - so I’m sure after that tournament, he will have gone back and reflected on those performances and worked on how we can improve.
England face Wales in a FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifier at St Mary’s Stadium on Friday 6th April, kick-off 7pm. You can buy tickets (priced at £10 Adult/£1 Under-18) at www.thefa.com/tickets or by calling 02381 780 780.