By Mackenzie Thomas
The Gemma Grainger era with Wales may have started with a defeat, but the new manager believes she has seen enough to leave her feeling positive about the future.
Grainger’s side were beaten 3-0 by Canada – a team flourishing with confidence at Cardiff’s Leckwith Stadium on Friday evening – in the former Middlesborugh coach’s first game since taking over from Jayne Ludlow.
Deanne Rose gave the visitors the lead in the first half, before Evelyn Viens doubled Canada’s advantage with Jessie Fleming adding the third.
Wales did have chances throughout the second period, but it was the team ranked eighth in the world that proved their status.
“I thought it was a really competitive game” said Granger, whose team follow-up this friendly with another at home to Denmark on Tuesday.
“We competed for periods of time in the game, and not only competed, but dominated, against a top-10 team.
“Some of the play I saw from us was positive and that is why we want to play teams like this. I am still learning about the group day by day, but I thought we produced a positive performance.”
There were signs of a new system, with Wales opting for a 4-3-3 line-up. Liverpool’s Ceri Holland made her full international debut, with a surprise appearance for Lilly Woodham who started at left-back.
However, Wales did include plenty of experience with captain Sophie Ingle, Gemma Evans and Natasha Harding all featuring, as well Kayleigh Green, who earned her 50th cap.
Grainger added: “For me, I wouldn’t read too much into the selection. Today, all the focus was on how we performed.
“We had a game plan, and the main focus was to deliver that game plan. We knew it would be a tough test against Canada because they’re a top team in the world.
“It was fantastic to see Ceri Holland make her full debut for Wales and to see the kind of performance that she and everyone put in was great to see.
“I’m excited to see this crop players coming through. Every player that I work with is so important to me and it’s how I support them to be the best they can be that is my number one priority.
“I thoroughly enjoyed the game tonight and it’s these types of big games that I thrive off.”
“There were plenty of positives for me tonight to take away going into Tuesday. I think the players confirmed a lot of things to me, that they never give up and have great resilience.
“I thought some of the football that we played when we were in possession tonight was outstanding and I can’t wait to watch that back. I think we’re going to learn from playing against teams like these, which will only make us stronger.
Canada started the game on the front foot and took the lead after 25 minutes, when Rose finished well past Laura O’Sullivan after being played into acres of space from a long ball that caught out the Welsh defence.
Viens then doubled the Canadians’ lead shortly into the second period, showing great skill from close-range just before the hour mark.
However, soon after that, Wales had a big shout for a penalty after Natasha Harding was brought down inside the penalty area, but the referee waved away any appeals.
Canada made it 3-0 when Fleming cutting inside past Rhianna Roberts down the right-hand side, before curling a delicious effort into the far corner leaving no chance for the outstretched O’Sullivan.
Wales: Laura O’Sullivan, Gemma Evans, Sophie Ingle (C), Rhiannon Roberts, Angharad James, Kayleigh Green, Jess Fishlock, Natasha Harding, Rachel Rowe, Ceri Holland, Lily Woodham (Esther Morgan, 67’)
Canada: Stephanie Lebbê, Shelina Zadorsky, Quinn (Sarah Statigakis, 69),, Deanne Rose (Janine Beckie, 55), Jordyn Huitema, (Nichelle Prince, 69) Ashley Lawrence, Desiree Scott (Jayde Riviere, 55), Christine Sinclair (C) (Evelyne Viens, 33), Gabrielle Carle, Jessie Fleming (Julia Grosso, 69), Vanessa Gilles