Jess Fishlock recalled for Wales’ crucial World Cup qualifiers
Jess Fishlock has been recalled by Wales for their crunch World Cup qualifying double-header, with manager Gemma Grainger maintaining the US-based veteran will play for her country beyond the tournament.
Midfielder Fishlock turns 36 before next summer’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand and was omitted from Wales’ last game in June.
That goalless friendly with New Zealand was Wales’ final preparation ahead of qualifiers against Greece and Slovenia which will determine whether Grainger’s side make the World Cup play-offs in October.
“It was best management for Jess, not travelling back in June for that game,” Grainger said.
“We felt it was best for her to peak in September and October when we knew that was going to be the key time.
“I’ve had a message from her in the last week and she can’t wait to get back.
“We’re looking forward to having her back, because she’s been a well-established player at the clubs and countries she’s played in, and an incredible role model for every player in the team.
“Young players look up to her to see what is required to be a professional with a winning mentality.”
Fishlock, who plays for Seattle-based OL Reign in America’s NWSL and who was named the league’s most valuable player in 2021, is Wales’ most capped footballer with 134 appearances.
Wales need four points from their final two games to be sure of keeping alive Fishlock’s ambition of playing at a major tournament for the first time.
But Grainger insists that this World Cup will not mark the end of her international career, whatever happens over the next two months.
She said: “I had a conversation with Jess when I got the job (in March 2021). I signed a four-year contract and I made a deal with her to say ‘let’s stick around for the four years’.
“It will be a conversation that Jess and I revisit, to make sure what’s right for her.
“But the one thing I know is she is in absolutely the best physical form of her life.
“When I see the impact she is having on her team over there, I don’t think her age comes into consideration, and hopefully we can keep her in this team for as long as we can.”
Grainger has named a 26-strong squad for the trip to Greece on September 2 and the finale with Slovenia in Cardiff four days later.
Midfielder Angharad James will reach 100 caps by playing in both games after completing a summer move to Tottenham from Orlando Pride in the NWSL.
“We definitely feel the excitement ahead of these games,” said Grainger.
“We’ve felt it throughout the whole of this journey and I feel we’re right on track of where we want it to be.”
Squad: L O’Sullivan (Cardiff), O Clark (Bristol City), S Middleton-Patel (Man Utd), R Roberts (Liverpool), J Green (Leicester), H Ladd (Man Utd), G Evans, R Rowe, L Woodham (all Reading), S Ingle (Chelsea), A Filbey (C Palace), A James (Tottenham), G Walters (Sheff Utd), C Estcourt (unattached), J Fishlock (OL Reign), C Jones (Leicester, on loan from Man Utd), F Morgan (Bristol City), M Wynne (Southampton), E Hughes (C Palace), K Green (Brighton), H Ward (Watford), N Harding (Aston Villa), C Holland (Liverpool), M Francis-Jones (Sheff Utd, dual agreement Man City), C Williams (Blackburn, dual agreement Man Utd), M Rogers (Watford).
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