Helen Ward believes Wales have wised-up on the mean streets of international football.
The Watford striker is set to earn her 71st cap against Bosnia-Herzegovina at Swansea City’s Liberty Stadium on Thursday night, where Jayne Ludlow’s side can take another big stride towards World Cup qualification.
Wales currently sit second in Group One, with two further games remaining – both at home – against Russia and England.
Three home fixtures in a row reflects the fact that Wales have done the hard work away from home. In five games – four of them on enemy territory – they have yet to concede a single goal.
It has not always been that way for Wales and certainly not at the start of Ward’s international career a decade ago.
The 32-year-old says: “Women’s football has grown in the 10 years I’ve been in the squad and we have grown as a team during that time. But Jayne Ludlow has stepped us up to another level.
“I think we are more savvy now, more streetwise. We manage games a lot better. Bosnia, Kazakhstan, Russia and England are tough teams to play and not to concede in four games shows we are becoming tough ourselves.
“We have always been competitive. The Welsh dragon is on our chest for a reason. People might think they are better than us, but they won’t out-fight us.
“The difference now is that we are more experienced and wiser in controlling games.”
Ward was on the bench against England last month, when Wales earned arguably the best result in their history with a goalless draw at Southampton.
It was a display based on organisation, flexibility, determination and a vibrant sense of team spirit that echoed the men’s teams campaign to the finals of Euro 2016.
The fact that Ward made this campaign at all has been testament to her dedication, having given birth to her second child, Charlie only last September.
But once her fitness was established, it would have been a straightforward decision for Ludlow to recall a player whose international record stands at a highly impressive 42 goals in 70 matches.
“I’ve worked hard to get back into the squad (after having two children).
“We have not made it to a major finals, so if we did succeed it would be a major achievement and I would feel very proud.
“The confidence in the team is sky high at the moment and we are in a place as a team where we haven’t been before.”
Captain Sophie Ingle has also pinpointed Wales’ new mean streak as the bedrock of their success.
The centre-back says: “The defensive side of the game is massive in international football,” said Ingle.
“You have to keep teams out of the back of your net and limit their chances, but we have to win these games if we want to be realistic and get a play-off position.
“We will be focused on the defensive side, but we have to push on and create chances, we can’t play like we did against the likes of England where we have to be realistic about who we were playing against.
“We are taking it game by game but we haven’t conceded a goal and that’s the main focus for us all, pride in that.
“But we want to be trying to get top spot, we have three tough games to play, but realistically we can do it.”
Bosnia-Herzegovina sit back in fourth place in the group and well outside of qualification contention.
They have lost four of their five games with just three goals scored – the same number as Wales – so it would be a rash move to predict a goal feast.