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This can be Wales’ time – Fishlock

Jess Fishlock was the first Wales player to reach 100 caps and is Wales’ most-capped playerVenue: Parc y Scarlets, Llanelli Date: Friday, 17 September Kick-off: 19:15 BSTCoverage: Live on BBC Two Wales, full commentary on MW and DAB on BBC Radio Wales, live streaming on Cymru Fyw and live (text and watch) coverage on the BBC Sport websiteWales’ most-capped player Jess Fishlock believes this can be the campaign when Wales’ women reach a major tournament for the first time.

Wales’ World Cup qualifying campaign gets under way on Friday, 17 September with Kazakhstan visiting Llanelli.

Wales are also in a group with Estonia, France, Greece and Slovenia as they target at least a second-placed finish and a play-off berth.

“This campaign does feel different, we have real belief,” Fishlock said.

Wales are hoping to reach a first major finals under new manager Gemma Grainger as they push for a place at the 2022 World Cup in New Zealand and Australia.

They just missed out on a play-off place for the last World Cup and lost out to Northern Ireland in Euro qualifying due to an inferior away goals head-to-head record, despite finishing level on points with them and with a vastly superior goal difference.

Fishlock says Wales’ players have real belief within their camp.

“The format is different, it gives you a little extra excitement and push for it, we want to qualify, we really want that,” Fishlock told BBC Sport Wales.

“But this campaign feels different in lots of ways. We are staying at the Vale of Glamorgan Resort (where the men’s team stay) and we feel more in-line with what we want to do, we are no longer the girls group over there, it feels like we are all on the same page.

“That feels great and something I haven’t felt before.

“The facilities and everything makes a big difference to our morale and how we feel valued as players.”

Fishlock has returned from her club side OL Reign, based in Seattle, as she leaves a National Women’s Super League (NWSL) title race to focus on Wales’ World Cup hopes.

The 34-year-old has stated previously that she would give up all her individual accolades for one major final with Wales and Fishlock says the progress the side are making is what keeps her hungry to carry on playing.

“That’s what keeps me flying in and out, I am still able to do it because I see so much change, so much progress, but it is bigger than that,” she said.

“We know what we have to do. We want to qualify and we want to push the game and keep pushing for equality.

“It is a really nice feeling at the moment, flying back to play for Wales.”

Fishlock was contemplating international retirement after Wales’ last World Cup qualifying campaign, but says Wales’ progress on and off the field is helping to prolong her career.

“I have gone backwards in how I feel, I now feel I could stay here and play forever,” she added.

“That is because of how the environment is making me feel, the FAW are making us want to come and play for our country and that hasn’t always been true.

“We feel like we belong and I think that will help us to achieve what we want to achieve.”

Fishlock believes added expectation is also a good thing, with the return of fans for their games another welcome boost.

“There is expectation on us now and I welcome that, I think it’ll take us to another level and qualification,” she added.

“People will think we are going to win the first two games and I welcome that, we should have that pressure on us, I see it as a positive.

“I am so excited to play in front of the fans again.”

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