Wales were beaten 2-0 by group leaders France despite producing a resolute defensive display in Guingamp.
Kadidiatou Diani put France ahead in first-half stoppage time as Wales paid a heavy price for a momentary lapse in concentration after an impressive half.
Jess Fishlock almost levelled for Wales in the final moments as she rattled the upright, before Selma Bacha scored on the break for the hosts.
Wales ended the game with 10 players after Kayleigh Green was sent off.
Green’s dismissal on 69 minutes – her second in five World Cup qualifiers – made an equaliser seem a step too far against a team as good as France, but they almost stunned the hosts when Fishlock hooked the ball against the post in added on time with the score at 1-0.
Despite the defeat, Wales will reflect on another positive international break with their bid to reach a first major finals on track after six qualification games.
Wales are realistically hoping to finish second in Group I and it was always unlikely they would get a positive result against a France side ranked fifth in the world and who had averaged seven goals per-game in their opening five qualifiers.
Gemma Grainger’s side were handed a major boost before even kicking a ball in Brittany, however, with the news that Greece had held Slovenia to a 0-0 draw earlier in the evening, giving Wales a two-point advantage in the fight for a runners-up berth.
Wales have seen their injury issues mount during the last month with Rachel Rowe and Hannah Cain joined on the sidelines by Ceri Holland, who was injured in Wales’ 5-0 qualifying win over Greece in Llanelli on Friday.
That meant an opportunity for 18-year old Manchester United midfielder Carrie Jones who joined Natasha Harding and Green in an attack that was sure to need to do plenty of defensive work, while another teenager, Tottenham’s Esther Morgan, retained her place in the Wales defence.
Wales made a bright start with Fishlock finding some early space and forcing Pauline Peyraud-Magnin to save a dangerous looking cross, but it was not long until France were exerting pressure on Wales’ defence.
Marie-Antoinette Katoto, who had scored in all five of France’s qualifiers, saw a shot deflected wide and Elisa de Almeida almost caught out Wales goalkeeper Laura O’Sullivan, who palmed clear a cross that was creeping into the net.
France were enjoying over 70% possession but failed to truly test O’Sullivan, though Aissatou Tounkara should have done better with a free header from a corner on 41 minutes.
However, Wales’ positive work throughout the half was undone in first-half stoppage time as they failed to stop Delphine Cascarino’s surging run as she found space in between Morgan and Hayley Ladd, allowing her to cross and provide Diani with a tap-in.
Wales showed ambition to attack the hosts after the interval and they almost struck an unlikely equaliser just before the hour mark when Fishlock’s volley was saved by Peyraud-Magnin at full stretch as she turned the ball around the post.
Forward Green also saw an opportunity to shoot at goal, but she hit the side-netting, while Harding’s shot lacked accuracy after Jones’ strong run.
Wales were really starting to look like they could get on the scoresheet but hopes of a comeback were extinguished on 69 minutes when Green was sent off after receiving a second yellow card.
Wales did threaten in the final stages as they caused France to panic, with Fishlock hooking the ball against the post after a long throw, but the miss was punished in the extreme as the hosts broke and sub Bacha fired home on the break.
- 2PérissetSubstituted forMbock Bathyat 81′minutes
- 22De Almeida
- 6TolettiSubstituted forDaliat 66′minutes
- 11DianiBooked at 58minsSubstituted forBachaat 66′minutes
- 20CascarinoSubstituted forMalardat 88′minutes
- 19Mbock Bathy
- 20JonesSubstituted forMorganat 68′minutes
- 9GreenBooked at 70mins
- Iuliana Elena Demetrescu
Match ends, France 2, Wales Women 0.
Second Half ends, France 2, Wales Women 0.
Attempt saved. Kenza Dali (France) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom right corner.
Corner, France. Conceded by Hayley Ladd.
Goal! France 2, Wales Women 0. Selma Bacha (France) left footed shot from outside the box to the top left corner. Assisted by Melvine Malard following a fast break.
Jess Fishlock (Wales Women) hits the left post with a right footed shot from the left side of the six yard box. Assisted by Natasha Harding.
Substitution, France. Melvine Malard replaces Delphine Cascarino.
Hand ball by Gemma Evans (Wales Women).
Foul by Selma Bacha (France).
Rhiannon Roberts (Wales Women) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Attempt missed. Delphine Cascarino (France) right footed shot from a difficult angle on the right misses to the right. Assisted by Selma Bacha with a cross.
Foul by Selma Bacha (France).
Sophie Ingle (Wales Women) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Offside, France. Perle Morroni tries a through ball, but Marie-Antoinette Katoto is caught offside.
Offside, France. Griedge Mbock Bathy tries a through ball, but Selma Bacha is caught offside.
Substitution, France. Griedge Mbock Bathy replaces Ève Périsset.
Attempt blocked. Ève Périsset (France) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Grace Geyoro.
Corner, France. Conceded by Rhiannon Roberts.
Selma Bacha (France) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Sophie Ingle (Wales Women).