A resounding 6-0 win inspired by a hat-trick from Natasha Harding justified the belief within the group, and offered Jayne Ludlow and her side the perfect start.
The side returned to action the following month as Northern Ireland visited Rodney Parade in Newport, and although Cymru fell behind to an early goal from Simone Magill, Angharad James and Kayleigh Green were both on target to put the side ahead as the match went deep into injury-time. A painful equaliser from Ashley Hutton earned Northern Ireland a share of the points, as Cymru could only reflect on what might have been.
Meanwhile, group favourites Norway were storming ahead, scoring seven against Belarus and 13 without reply against the Faroe Islands. However, Cymru continued their undefeated start as Rachel Rowe returned from a long-term injury to score the only goal of the game against Belarus in Barysaw, and the side then played out a 0-0 draw against Northern Ireland in Belfast at the end of 2019. It was a crucial result that handed Northern Ireland the head-to-head advantage over Cymru in the group on away goals.
The pandemic brought a delayed return to action and the finals as the decision was made to switch the tournament from 2021 to 2022. Cymru returned to action in September 2020 with a difficult journey to Norway, but despite putting in an exceptional performance, the side were defeated 1-0 through a goal from Guro Reiten. A 4-0 win over the Faroe Islands in Newport followed in October, but another 1-0 defeat to Norway in Cardiff left qualification out of Cymru hands.
Cymru did what they had to do as goals from Harding, Rowe and Jess Fishlock proved enough to claim a comfortable 3-0 win over Belarus, but it was Northern Ireland who took advantage of the situation by winning their final two games to claim second spot, despite falling a goal behind against the Faroe Islands on the final day. A play-off victory over Ukraine followed and Northern Ireland will now compete at the finals of a major women's tournament for the first time next summer.
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