Wales have never appeared at a major tournament and they will have to finish above England and Ukraine to get to the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup – but in captain Jessica Fishlock they have a player worthy of that stage.
The midfielder moved to Seattle Reign FC in the new United States NWSL early in 2013 and ended up being named in the league's best XI, a year after being FA Women's Super League player of the season with old club Bristol Academy WFC. Now back in Europe on loan at Glasgow City LFC, Fishlock is gearing up to open Wales's World Cup Group 6 qualifying bid at home to Belarus on Thursday.
The 26-year-old spoke to UEFA.com about crossing the Atlantic to play for her country and Welsh dreams of reaching UEFA Women's EURO 2017.
UEFA.com: What do you think of your group?
Jessica Fishlock: I think nowadays, with the way women's football has grown, there are no easy games. But I definitely think, given the way we have been improving over the last couple of years, it is a group we can realistically think we can get out of.
UEFA.com: The biggest challenge is England, your first away game on 26 October in London ...
Fishlock: We've never played them at international level and only once at U19s, so I'm really looking forward to that game. And not from the point of view of England v Wales – it obviously makes it is little tastier – but from the World Cup qualifying point of view: we want to qualify and we know they are going to be the team, the seed, the quality side we have to beat to make the dream realistic.
UEFA.com: Only eight European teams go to the World Cup but 16 sides will qualify for UEFA Women's EURO 2017 – is that in Wales's sights?
Fishlock: I think our long-term 'must' is qualifying for that tournament. It's 16 teams now and it is a must for us, without a shadow of a doubt. We will use this campaign – obviously we want to qualify and that is something we believe we can do as well. But now that the EUROs have 16 qualifiers, from the team's perspective and from my personal perspective, if we don't qualify then it's not going to be good enough.
UEFA.com: You are in Scotland now, but for much of the year you have had to commute from Seattle for Wales games ...
Fishlock: To be honest, I'm not going to lie, the travelling is a bit of a downside to what goes on in my life. I hate the thought of jumping on planes. But it is part and parcel of my job and as long as I take my rest and do what I need to do, it's not that bad.
I love coming back and meeting up with Wales. I love all the girls, they're a great bunch and a great little team. We have a lot of respect for each other on the pitch and off the pitch, and that is key. It is why we have done so well over the last two years. I love coming back and I love playing for Wales.
UEFA.com: What are the things you miss most about Wales?
Fishlock: I'm really close to all of them, we've grown and played together for so long that sometimes you miss that company and the people that know you best. When you go travelling and go from team to team, you miss that. That's why it is so good to get back to a bit of normality and Wales is definitely a constant in my life. It's something I don't take for granted.
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