The Wales manager, Jayne Ludlow, said the dressing room was solemn and quiet after a 1-0 defeat against Norway at the Cardiff City Stadium took Euro 2022 qualification out of their hands.
“No one really knows what to say about it,” the former Arsenal player said. “We can flip it to the positives, we created chances, we competed really well against them, but we’re realists as well. We’ve let an opportunity slip there and those opportunities don’t come around too often.”
Norway, who will play the 2022 host England in a friendly at Bramall Lane on 1 December, have become the fourth team to secure their passage alongside the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany.
With a first-half goal from Liverpool’s Rachel Furness having given Northern Ireland an away win against Belarus, Wales needed at least a point against Norway to keep possible qualification via a second-place finish in their control. Wales sit three points above Northern Ireland in Group C having played a game more.
However, should both teams win their remaining fixtures – Northern Ireland play Belarus and the Faroe Islands at home having beaten both away, while Wales welcome Belarus – then Northern Ireland would finish second with a better head-to-head record, having scored two goals at Rodney Parade in a 2-2 draw before holding on to a scoreless draw at home.
“The older players have gone through the pain of this campaign and really, like myself, thought that this was the moment where we could change our situation but unfortunately we’ve got to rely on others to do that for us,” Ludlow added.
The Wales captain, Sophie Ingle, said the two defeats against Norway were not what cost them. “Our two draws against Northern Ireland haven’t been ideal for us and made this a pressure game,” she said. “Maybe if we had got a result against Northern Ireland there wouldn’t have been so much pressure against the top seeds.”
Norway had got the better of Wales in Oslo, a goal from Chelsea’s Guro Reiten enough to give them three points, though Wales were left lamenting a late penalty shout, and back in Wales the target for the home side was to get a draw against the team ranked 22 positions above them in the Fifa rankings. The decision to play the 19-year-old centre forward Elise Hughes at centre-back with Manchester United’s Hayley Ladd and Chelsea’s Ingle surprised, and initially the unorthodox trio did well to stifle the almost continuous pressure from the Norwegians.
However, just past the hour, Frida Maanum nicked the ball from the feet of Kayleigh Green, who was attempting to launch a Wales break, drawing Hughes out of position in the process, and the Linköping midfielder skipped into the space left between Ingle and Ladd and fired in.