England manager Phil Neville hailed a “great night for women’s football” after his side beat Wales to reach next year’s World Cup in France.
Victory for either side would have put them through, but second-half goals from Toni Duggan, Jill Scott and Nikita Parris proved to be the difference.
“We will celebrate and enjoy the next couple of days,” Neville told BBC Two.
“When I took the job, I said I wanted to win the World Cup. This week has felt like the biggest game so far.”
He added: “I am happy we are going to France, I am not totally happy with the way we played, we can play better but we have some good players.
“Our plan is now to play five or six of the top eight [in the world] and when we get to France we want to know where we are.”
‘We showed our class’
England went into the game in second place in the qualification group behind Wales, who had not conceded in any of their previous seven qualifying games.
But Neville’s side, who are fourth in the Fifa world rankings, showed their superiority in the second period against a team ranked 25 spots below.
And they did it with a game to spare, coming up against Kazakhstan in their final qualifier on Tuesday.
Neville said: “Job done. I went straight to the Wales players at the end – they’ve been fantastic in the campaign.
“I thought we showed our class in the second half and showed we are a top, top team. I’m proud and I’m looking forward to the next 12 months.
“For 30 minutes we controlled the game but then we started to listen to the crowd and they started to win tackles and we switched off at free-kicks.
“I told the players to relax at half-time and enjoy possession. That was part of our training. We sustained our attacks and they lost their energy and our quality showed in the end. We’ll enjoy tonight and we’re on our way to France.”
Midfielder Scott added: “Wales played really well, they made us bring out another side to our game, we had to be strong in the tackle, angry and now we know we can fight and we will need that at the World Cup.”
‘The gulf wasn’t there at times’
Under Mark Sampson, England finished third at the last World Cup in Canada, losing to Japan in the semi-finals but beating Germany in the third-fourth place play-off match.
Asked if he thought England could go one step further next year in France, Neville replied: “I believe [we can go a step further] but I don’t think the players believe at this moment in time.
“I still think they have a little bit to go, but each time we meet up I see more development and more improvement.
“Wales took us all the way to the wire and they should be unbelievably proud. It’s been a great night for women’s football.”
Meanwhile, Wales will wait to find out the outcome of the remaining fixtures to see if they are able to grab a play-off spot as one of the best four runners-up.
Manager Jayne Ludlow said: “This campaign has been fantastic but tonight we’ve not been good enough. These girls are capable of playing at the highest level but they need to show that.
“There’s a reason why England qualify for every major campaign – they are quality. We can correct the errors.
“We’re 29th, they’re fourth. That gulf wasn’t there at times tonight.”
Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/45377587