Cymru were left devastated in the FIFA Women’s World Cup Play-Off Final as Switzerland scored in the final minute of extra-time to book their place in the Finals next summer and and break Welsh hearts.
Just to feel disappointment and pain like this shows how far Cymru have come. To be on the cusp of qualifying for the World Cup was an historic achievement in itself; and to be competing at this level of the game is a demonstration of the monumental effort put in by the players and everyone behind the scenes supporting them, from staff, to the fans, to their families. Together Stronger.
“It is incredibly tough to take. We know the margins at this level are fine and that has been shown tonight,” said Grainger to BBC Wales after the match. “I am incredibly proud of this group. I am proud we competed in this game and we intend to keep doing that.
“We are disappointed right now, we know we can win these level of games, but it is fine margins. We have to thank our fans for their support in the campaign.”
Cymru took the lead through Rhiannon Roberts in the 20th minute of the game after Switzerland were forced into conceding a corner kick. When the Swiss defence failed to clear the ball, Kayleigh Green headed it down for Roberts. Taking her time, Roberts made sure to put the ball was slotted into the back of the net.
The goal completely rocked the Swiss team and their fans in Zurich but before the half was over they composed themselves and found an equaliser.
Having soaked up the pressure, Cymru’s defence finally cracked when some lovely passing play resulted in Ramona Bachmann sending the ball into the top righthand corner from inside the penalty area.
As the game went on, Switzerland were clearly the dominant force as the extra-time period Cymru played against Bosnia and Herzegovina in the Play-Off Semi-Final started to take it’s toll on Welsh legs.
A VAR decision led to a penalty being awarded to Switzerland after Rachel Rowe was adjudged to have handled the ball in the box. From the spot, Ana-Marie Crnogorčević missed the penalty by hitting the post. She netted the rebound but the goal was ruled out as she’d taken two touches before an opponent or teammate had touched the ball.
With ten minutes of regulation time remaining, Cymru came close to snatching it when Ceri Holland and Jess Fishlock linked well to play the ball into Green’s path. Her strike came painstakingly close but ended up on the top of the goal net.
More late drama was to follow. With Cymru looking tired, Switzerland took advantage to use the space and work the ball into the near post where Bachmann sneaked the it into the net from a tight angle. It looked like the Swiss had won it before the 90 was up. However, there was more VAR drama as Riola Xhemaili was in an offside position in the build-up play.
With the game going into extra-time it was a backs to wall display from Cymru but after Rowe cleared the ball off the line from a Swiss corner and penalties looked a certain possibility, they were dealt the cruellest of blows in football.
In added time of extra-time, Rachel Rinast was released down the left. With space to cross in towards the near post, she found the run of Fabienne Humm who sneaked the ball between the post and Laura O’Sullivan.
The goal in the dying embers of the game was enough to end Cymru’s journey and take Switzerland through to the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Cymru: O’Sullivan, Roberts, Ladd, Evans, Rowe, Ingle (c), James, Fishlock, Holland (Ward 119’), Jones (Morgan 69’), K Green (Woodham 90’). Subs: Clark, Middleton-Patel, J Green, Bull, Hughes, Estcourt, Walters, Wynne, Filbey.
Switzerland: Thalmann, Maritz, Calligaris, Bühler, Aigbogun (Humm 106’), Wälti (c), Crnogorčević, Reuteler, Bachmann (Terchoun 113’), Sow (Xhemaili 75’), Fölmli (Rinast, 87’). Subs: Peng, Herzog, Stierli, Piubel, Felber, Ray, Mauron, Riesen.
SWITZERLAND 2-1 CYMRU (AET)
FIFA Women’s World Cup Play-Off Final
- Tuesday, 11 October 2022
- Stadion Letzigrund, Zurich