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WALES manager Jayne Ludlow turned up the heat on World Cup rival Phil Neville today by saying the pressure is on him to deliver trophies for England.
The race for 2019 World Cup qualification has unexpectedly gone down to the wire in Group 1 with unfancied Wales leading the way before their crunch clash on August 31.
Wales are a point ahead of Neville’s England side, who have a game in hand and finish their qualifying campaign in Kazakhstan four days after their trip to Newport.
“We’re in a cut-throat business in football management and we have to achieve success,” Ludlow said when naming her squad for the Rodney Parade clash at a Cardiff press conference.
“Maybe in our environment there’s less expected of us, but, with the budgets and people England have, they are expected to win trophies.
“Unfortunately for Phil, England haven’t, so he’s got one hell of a challenge.
“When the campaign started, people were saying they were already in France.
“I think the reality they’re not there yet is starting to sink in for them now.”
Wales held England to a goalless draw at Southampton in April and have not conceded in seven group games.
England have been free-scoring with 20 goals in six games, but qualification for France next summer has yet to be achieved.
The runners-up could end up in a November play-off.
“We have a lot more growth to make, but we’re a small nation and we’re together as maybe England don’t have that,” Ludlow said.
“It’s a challenge for them to pick the right players and I think the pressure is on them.
“They’re the top-ranked team in the group and they’ve had relative success in the last 20 years.
“They’ve made some fairly drastic changes in this campaign, some of which have been positive and some have been the opposite.
“The playing group has changed a fair bit from the last World Cup.”
Captain Sophie Ingle will lead the squad that includes the experience of Jess Fishlock, Natasha Harding and Angharad James, while Kayleigh Green keeps her place in the side after scoring four goals in the campaign so far.
However, Charlie Estcourt misses out as she recovers from a knee injury.
"Apart from Charlie Estcourt, everyone else is fit and healthy right now and hopefully it stays like that for the next three weeks,” said Ludlow.
"For us as a squad it's the next game. It happens to be the last game of what's been a really interesting, challenging tough journey.
Wales have been boosted before the England showdown by Ludlow signing a four-year contract extension.
“I am so proud to be managing the national team, it’s a great honour.
“The challenges that we have ahead of us in terms of next year’s World Cup and beyond excite me a great deal as we aim to get Wales to a major tournament for the first time.
“It’s been a really interesting and exciting journey over the last 12 months.
“The girls are thoroughly looking forward to proving themselves once again and, if they do that in the next game, they will be pleased walking off that pitch.”
Football Association of Wales chief executive Jonathan Ford said: “We are extremely delighted to see Jayne extend her tenure as the national team manager.
“She has been key in the development of women’s football in Wales and her hard work with the national side has ensured a positive future for the game in Wales.”
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