Wales suffered a 2-1 defeat in the Women’s World Cup qualifying as France maintained their 100-per-cent record, while Northern Ireland’s hopes also suffered a blow against Austria.
Wendie Renard and Marie-Antoinette Katoto scored as France, who are ranked third in the world – 28 places above Wales – made it seven wins from as many games.
Sophie Ingle halved the deficit with a deflected strike 19 minutes from time, and Wales were denied an equalizer when Gemma Evans’ header was ruled out for offside.
Helen Ward was sent on a stoppage time to win her 100th cap and become the fourth Welsh woman to reach the milestone after Ingle, Jess Fishlock and Loren Dykes.
Slovenia’s 2-0 win in Kazakhstan moved them one point above Wales in the race for second place and a play-off spot.
But Slovenia have played one game more than Gemma Grainger’s side and visit France on Tuesday.
Wales play away to Kazakhstan, who are yet to collect a point from six games, on the same night.
France had won 2-0 when the sides met in Brittany in November and dominated the early stages at Parc y Scarlets with Paris St Germain winger Kadidiatou Diani a constant danger.
Diani had two chances to open the scoring in a matter of seconds after 16 minutes. Laura O’Sullivan denied her first effort at the near post before France recycled possession and she slotted wide.
Wales had some bright moments in a competitive first half despite often being penned back by France’s elegant one-touch football.
Ingle saw an effort blocked following a penalty-box scramble and Fishlock failed to capitalize on Pauline Peyraud-Magnin’s poor punch in the France goal.
Manchester United’s Carrie Jones, deputizing for the suspended Kayleigh Green, also forced a near-post save from Peyraud-Magnin.
France broke the deadlock after 31 minutes just seconds after O’Sullivan had superbly pushed away Renard’s effort.
Sandie Toletti swung over another corner and Renard rose highest again to score with a carbon-copy header.
France doubled their lead after 57 minutes when O’Sullivan’s attempted clearance was blocked by Katoto, who was left with the simple task of rolling the ball into an empty net.
Ingle set up a grandstand finish with her fifth Wales goal as she fired through a crowd of France defenders.
Diani had a late effort scrambled off the line and France now need one more win to secure qualification for next year’s finals in Australia and New Zealand.
Northern Ireland Women suffered a severe blow to their World Cup qualifying hopes as they fell to a 3-1 defeat against Austria 10 weather forecast for Wiener Neustadt.
Three goals early in the second half sunk the visitors, who now face the daunting prospect of meeting Group D leaders England at Windsor Park next week.
Rachel Furness almost capitalized on an early mistake by Austrian goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger but the home side soon began to assert control.
Carina Wenninger opened the scoring when she poked home a corner from Barbara Dunst three minutes into the second half, before Marissa Callaghan came close to an equalizer after another Zinsberger error.
Two goals in as many minutes effectively ended Northern Ireland’s chances with Nicole Billa slotting home in the 55th minute and Dunst following up from close range shortly afterwards.
Joely Andrew threaded a consolation goal five minutes from time but defeat leaves Northern Ireland three points behind the second-placed Austrians in the play-off spot.
Grainger: We showed our resilience
Wales manager Gemma Grainger felt her side’s defeat was bittersweet after losing narrowly against one of FIFA’s highest ranked teams, who had won every game coming into their match.
She said: “We probably feel the same as we did in the first game, but it’s actually a bit worse. To go 2-0 down against the third best team in the world and push them to the end shows how incredibly resilient this group is. ice.
“We competed against one of the best teams in the world. I’m disappointed, but I’m proud and that’s the overriding feeling.
“I could see them at the end making substitutions and time wasting. I’m looking at them and thinking this is a real sign of the team we are.
“We want to play these teams in tournaments and I feel that was a tournament game.”