Helen Ward: Record scorer says Wales must sharpen attack

Helen Ward
Helen Ward represented England at under-23s level
Women's international football friendly: Wales v New Zealand
Venue: Cardiff International Sport Stadium Date: Tue, 4 June Kick-off: 19:00 GMT
Coverage: Watch on the BBC Sport website and BBC Sport app or listen on BBC Radio Wales & Radio Cymru and online

Wales' record scorer Helen Ward admits Jayne Ludlow's side need to sharpen up in attack if they are to qualify for a first major international tournament.

Wales begin their Euro 2021 qualifying campaign in August. They host New Zealand in a friendly on Tuesday, 4 June at Cardiff International Stadium.

Unlike New Zealand, Wales missed out on World Cup qualification and have not scored in their last six games.

"It is about taking it step by step," Ward told BBC Sport Wales.

Wales finished second behind England in their World Cup qualifying campaign having conceded only three goals in the entire campaign, all against England in their final group game.

However, since thrashing Russia 3-0 in their penultimate qualifier, Wales have failed to find the net in six successive matches.

Record scorer Ward, who has found the net for Wales 42 times in 70 appearances said:

"That last group was our stepping stone to bigger and better things.

"Keeping the clean sheets was massive for us, that was our base, but now we are trying to develop it so we have more options going forward.

"We had to go back to being a hard-to-beat team, that's the basics of what we needed to do and that served us really well. But now we have got to the point where that is not enough.

"To then go and compete and get to the Euros, we are going to have to take that on and improve and that is what Jayne is looking for us to do."

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Highlights: Wales Women 0-3 England Women

Watford striker Ward, 33, says she considered international retirement after Wales missed out on the World Cup, but feels the chance to make history by being the first Wales women's team to qualify for a major finals is too big a chance to pass up.

"I did consider whether to make the last campaign my last campaign. When you get to 30 or more you wonder how long you can keep going," she said.

"It is a grind, however much we love it, you are a 24/7 athlete as they say, maybe minus one or two hours a week, but the group is so good, we came so close, it was heartbreaking; but it made me think 'I have to give it one more go'.

"Had we qualified for the World Cup I would have been looking to retire at the end of that and would have been delighted with how it finished."

Ward believes the fact the Football Ferns have chosen Wales as World Cup warm-up is testament to the improvements they have made.

"We know we have put ourselves on the map," she added.

"For the likes of New Zealand to want to come and play us because they know they will get a good game, that shows how far we've come."

Wales (from): Laura O'Sullivan, Olivia Clark, Sophie Ingle, Hayley Ladd, Loren Dykes, Gemma Evans, Rhiannon Roberts, Lily Woodham, Natasha Harding, Chloe Lloyd, Anna Filbey, Kylie Nolan, Charlie Estcourt, Elise Hughes, Emma Jones, Megan Wynne, Helen Ward, Kayleigh Green, Ella Powell, Georgia Evans.

New Zealand (from): Erin Nayler, Ria Percival, CJ Bott, Paige Satchell, Meikayla Moore, Ali Riley, Abby Erceg, Sarah Gregorius, Betsy Hassett, Annalie Longo, Rosie White, Olivia Chance, Katie Bowen, Anna Green, Emma Kete, Sarah Morton, Katie Duncan, Stephanie Skilton, Daisy Cleverley, Vic Esson, Nadia Olla.

BBC Sport has launched #ChangeTheGame this summer to showcase female athletes in a way they never have been before. Through more live women's sport available to watch across the BBC this summer, complemented by our journalism, we are aiming to turn up the volume on women's sport and alter perceptions. Find out more here.

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