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Women's Euros 2025 qualifying: Wales v Ukraine (Fri)

Wales boss Rhian Wilkinson says her side should expect to face a “strong team,” that are “suffering a lot,” as they prepare for a Euro qualifying double-header against Ukraine.

Wales host Ukraine at Parc y Scarlets on Friday, 31 May, four days before the sides meet in Poland to complete the double-header.

Ukraine are unable to stage the fixture due to the ongoing war with Russia.

Wales top ground B4 with two wins from two, while Ukraine, the second highest ranked side in the group behind Wales, lost 1-0 to Croatia in their second qualifier.

Wilkinson says she expects Ukraine to provide a stern test.

“I can’t even imagine what they’re going through at home,” she said.

“Ukraine are part of our group and I always say you respect teams the most by showing up and putting in a top performance and that is what we plan to do.

“I expected to be challenged and pushed, I expect our players to be handed nothing and really must earn the result.”

Wales have scored 10 goals in their opening qualifiers after convincing wins over Croatia and Kosovo in Wilkinson’s first games in charge.

The former Canadian international was appointed in March after Gemma Grainger quit to take the vacant Norway women managerial role.

Wilkinson says there has been a lighter atmosphere on this camp as the players begin to get used to her methods.

“It’s been a lot of fun, the first camp was a first time on many things, it was a lot of change for the players and everyone was a bit nervous and bit tense at first,” she said.

“But then we put in two great performances. I really feel on the pitch we delivered, but it was not completely comfortable in the environment. We have now got a camp already under our belts, so some of the changes I have made and the people they have met are now more familiar.

“It has been a lot lighter and brighter in training, we have worked hard. It has been a lot of fun and I have really enjoyed it.”

Wilkinson says she has been impressed by the talent levels she has found in the Wales squad she inherited and is pleased her players are testing themselves in different leagues.

Wales now have four players playing overseas with Jess Fishlock, Lily Woodham and Angharad James – who will captain Wales in Llanelli – playing in the USA for Seattle Reign, while defender Rhiannon Roberts plays for Real Betis in Spain. A little closer to home, midfielder Rachel Rowe has won the double in Scotland with Rangers and was their player of the season.

“I want all my players playing in top environments,” Wilkinson said.

“I look at some of our players and I cannot believe they have not been picked up by top clubs yet. So, if it takes them going to Spain, the US or another environment for their talent to be recognised, then I’m all for it. I need them on the field and competing every week to push the standards of the team.”

Wales are yet to concede a goal in Euro qualifying, but Wilkinson, who played as a defender in three separate Olympics, says they need to improve defensively and wants to see progress on that front in the Ukraine fixtures ahead of tougher tests in the play-offs.

“We obviously want to win and progress through this group with good performances, but we also know what we’re preparing for,” she added.

“If we play opposition of better quality, they will really take advantage of the looseness in some of our positions in the last games.

We have got to keep our standards very high, the results are one piece of it, but there is also what we are doing defensively and in attack.”

Wales are without injured forwards Elise Hughes and Hannah Cain who have both undergone ACL surgery.

Wilkinson says there are also other players who will not be able to play in both games as she manages fitness at the end of a long season.

“We have a couple of knocks, with it being the end of season some players are coming in with things to monitor,” she added.

“There are a few who won’t see much playing time, but thankfully we have two games.”