Sophie Ingle: Wales captain aims to turn silver into gold

Sophie Ingle
Sophie Ingle was voted Chelsea's players' player of the season for 2018-19
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 captain Sophie Ingle hopes to turn her near misses and plaudits into major tournament appearances for her country and title wins with Chelsea.

Ingle, 27, has endured a campaign of 'what ifs', having come close to glory for both the teams she plays for.

Wales missed out on the 2019 World Cup despite a superb campaign in which they kept seven clean sheets in eight games and being only a point away from qualifying for a play-off.

Ingle's Chelsea side also lost 3-2 on aggregate to Lyon in the semi-final of the Champions League.

Her long campaign ends on Tuesday, 4 June as Wales host a New Zealand side who have just beaten England in preparation for the World Cup.

The Chelsea defender says it is a sign of Wales' progress that the 'Football Ferns' even want to play against Jayne Ludlow's side.

"It is really good these teams want to play us," she said. "It is always good going in against teams going to major tournaments, because you can see where you are against them. We can still compete with these top teams.

"It is always tough missing out on qualification because we got so close to where we wanted to be.

'We've put Wales on the map'

"We took major strides in those two years, which is massive for Wales. We finally put Wales women's football on the map, which is why teams like New Zealand want to play us before they go to a major tournament.

"Hopefully, next time, we will be the team to reach a major tournament and we will be the ones picking suitable friendly opponents, because the past two years have been massive for us."

Ingle says she took great heart from Chelsea's near-miss against a Lyon side who have won the Champions League for four successive seasons and reached nine of the past 11 finals.

"It has been a massive year for me personally," said Ingle, who returned to Chelsea for a second spell after leaving Liverpool, the club she supports, last June. "It is nice to go back to Chelsea where there have been a lot of changes for the better in the past five years.

"It was a big challenge for me to up and leave Liverpool, but I needed to push on and try to push myself to get to the top of my game with a great team.

"We had a slow start in the league, but we were always preparing for the Champions League, competing against the best and it was fine margins that stopped us from potentially beating Lyon. They showed their experience really.

"We pushed Lyon. It was a familiar feeling to the one with Wales. You are happy in a way to show you can compete and we were so close, but it is the tiny little margins, cutting out tiny little mistakes, which makes good teams great."

'It was easy to pick a winner'

Ingle expects an even better 2019-20 season domestically, with the Women's Super League going from strength to strength.

It has already secured a record sponsorship deal, while Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur have been promoted to the top flight for the first time.

"The WSL is improving; it was competitive how it was last season and now you are adding Manchester United and Tottenham," she said.

"You never know who will win now on a certain day and it was nothing like that a few years ago. It was easy to pick a winner then.

"It just shows how competitive it has become.

"The game has gone massive. In the past two years it has gone so big, so quickly."

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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