WALES manager Jayne Ludlow acknowledged the failure to beat Northern Ireland cost them their European Championship dream.

Northern Ireland secured a play-off spot at the 2022 finals by finishing second in Group C to Norway, edging out Wales courtesy of their superior head-to-head record.

Wales are 21 places higher than Northern Ireland in the FIFA women's world rankings, 34th to 55th, and finished level in qualification on 14 points.

But it is Northern Ireland who progress to the play-offs with a 2-2 away draw in Wales working in their favour, and the Belfast return having finished goalless.

The first of those draws was agonising after Ludlow's side conceded at the death in Newport following a mistake by goalkeeper Laura O'Sullivan.

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"Obviously those are the games that have cost us," the manager said after Wales ended their campaign with a 3-0 home win over Belarus while Northern Ireland were beating the Faroe Islands 5-1.

"We won the other four and the Norway games were always going to be tough. It was a case of where we sit, can we compete with them?

"Looking back, the home game with Northern Ireland we were especially disappointed not to come away with three points.

"Northern Ireland have a different way of playing and got what they wanted from this competition.

"They've looked at Norway in different ways to us. We believe we are building, but we still have a way to go."

Wales' goal difference was actually 13 better than Northern Ireland, with their 1-0 defeats to Norway in stark contrast to the 6-0 thrashings suffered by their rivals.

The Faroe Islands had failed to score in six group games while conceding 37 goals, but the group's bottom-placed team took the lead in Belfast to hint at a huge upset.

"I did hear something half-time (about the Faroe Islands taking the lead), that was a shock," Ludlow said.

"It was a pity they couldn't hold out for the 80-odd minutes, but well done to Northern Ireland getting to the play-offs.

"When you look at the group we've won four, drawn two and lost two.

"The good thing is we are coming closer to those high level teams in the sense that it was 1-0 twice.

"We've come so close, but we realise we can't make mistakes going forward."

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First-half goals from Natasha Harding and Rachel Rowe and a Jess Fishlock penalty saw Wales end their campaign in style at Rodney Parade.

Wales manager Jayne Ludlow had been boosted before kick-off by Fishlock and Harding promising to extend their careers into the 2023 World Cup qualifying campaign.

Harding had already forced Belarus goalkeeper Nataliya Voskobovich into early action before the two veterans combined after 14 minutes to give Wales the lead.

Fishlock did well to reach the byline and cut the ball back for Harding, who finished at the second attempt after scuffing her initial effort.

Wales captain Sophie Ingle tested Voskobovich from 25 yards and Ffion Morgan headed Fishlock's cross against a post following another sweeping home move.

Rowe doubled Wales' lead after 34 minutes after playing a one-two with Angharad James and sending a superb curled effort past Voskobovich and into the far corner of the net.

It was Rowe's second goal for Wales with her first coming in the 1-0 away win in Belarus in October 2019.

Belarus' only first-half effort was a tame attempt from Anastasiya Shcherbachenia, but the visitors' captain was inches away from halving the deficit after 58 minutes.

Shcherbachenia's powerful 20-yard free-kick struck the underside of the crossbar and Anastasiya Novikova and Viktoriya Kazakevich failed to bundle in the rebound.

Wales made their most of their reprieve as Anastasiya Linnik tripped Harding after 71 minutes.

Fishlock comfortably converted her 30th international goal from the spot, and her first for three years, but Wales' qualification hopes had long since disappeared.