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Wales coach Gemma Grainger welcomes VAR for crunch World Cup play-offs

Wales head coach Gemma Grainger hopes to plot a path to the women’s World Cup next summer (Simon Galloway/PA)
Wales head coach Gemma Grainger hopes to plot a path to the women’s World Cup next summer (Simon Galloway/PA)

Head coach Gemma Grainger has welcomed the use of VAR for Wales Women’s World Cup play-off action.

Wales host Bosnia and Herzegovina in Cardiff on Thursday, the first of three potential games needed to reach next summer’s World Cup finals in Australia and New Zealand.

Switzerland await the winners next Tuesday and, if Wales overcome that Zurich hurdle, they are likely to face an an inter-continental play-off in New Zealand in February to make the World Cup.

Nottingham Forest v West Ham United – Premier League – City Ground
VAR will be in operation in the Women’s World Cup play-offs featuring Wales (Mike Egerton/PA)

The use of VAR in the World Cup play-offs was confirmed this week and Grainger said: “It’s a huge positive for us. We’ve had instances in previous games when players didn’t get penalty decisions.

“Our attacking players like to take players on in one v one situations, so as a whole team hopefully that will benefit us.

“If we’d had it during the (qualifying) campaign, I think we would have had some decisions that would have changed the results of games.

“It’s going to be used in the World Cup, so for teams in the women’s game to get that exposure to it consistently is good.

“It’s had its teething problems in the men’s game, and continues to do so, but hopefully we can learn from that and use it in our game to be a real positive.

“The one thing we want in games is consistency in decisions – and VAR gives that extra layer of consistency.”

Wales will be without the 103-times capped midfielder Natasha Harding, who has scored 26 goals for her country.

Grainger omitted Harding from the squad last week for “personal reasons” but eyebrows were raised when the 33-year-old made her Aston Villa debut last weekend following a summer move from Reading.

Wales v Slovenia – 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup Qualifying – Group I – Cardiff City Stadium
Wales will be without the 103-times capped Natasha Harding because of “personal reasons” (Simon Galloway/PA)

“Our stance on that is that we made that decision as the Football Association of Wales, in the best interests of Tash and the team,” Grainger said.

“We are supporting her in every way and for personal reasons, that is why she is not with us.

“That decision has been made in the best interests of the team and the player, with the FAW making that decision.

“Our number one priority with any player in the team is supporting them and that is what we are doing with Tash. Whatever we decide in the future will be (in the best interests) of the player and the team.”

Wales, who have record caps holder Jess Fishlock available after a hamstring injury kept her out of last month’s qualifiers against Greece and Slovenia, are set to break their women’s attendance record for the second time in four weeks.

The current record home crowd is 12,741 – the attendance for September’s crunch qualifier against Slovenia – and 14,500 tickets have already been sold for the Cardiff City Stadium play-off.

Grainger, who confirmed Wales have been practising penalties ahead of the play-offs, said: “It’s hard to put into words how that makes us feel.

“This is the point we wanted to be at. At the start of this campaign, we would have given anything to be in this position.

“It’s win you stay, lose and you go home. That’s the tournament feeling we haven’t really had yet as a team.”