For so long the bridesmaids of women’s football, England are becoming familiar with seeing their name lit up on the honours board of the international game. And after a successful 12 months, they are approaching the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Germany 2010 in great heart.
The team that launches England’s Group C challenge against Nigeria in Augsburg on 14 July is to all intents and purpose the same that helped England triumph in the UEFA U-19 Championship in Belarus last summer, when they scored 12 goals and conceded none.
Fast forward from July to August 2009, when the senior England team took inspiration from their younger colleagues to progress to the final of the UEFA European Championship before going down to perennial champions Germany 6-2. Confidence at every level of the game in England is on the rise.
Over the course of the three-week tournament in Germany, a great deal of goalscoring responsibility for Mo Marley’s team will rest on the shoulders of Toni Duggan. She scored four times in the qualifying tournament and, at only 18, has a wealth of experience already packed into her locker.
She had very limited experience with her club Everton when she received the selection call for the last FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup. Even so she was considered important enough to England’s cause at Chile 2008 to start all four games, as they progressed to the quarter-finals before being undone 3-0 by eventual winners USA.
“I was surprised to get the call up but I want to play at the highest level so it was a challenge I relished,” Duggan told FIFA.com. “The quarter-final was a close game and hopefully we can use that experience and go on to better things this time.
“The women’s game is becoming a lot bigger in England and that increases competition, which can only be good for the national teams. The girls coming through have been taught by good coaches from an early age and all the years of hard work are starting to bear fruit. As a nation we are starting to excel and make our mark and we need to do that on the world stage now.
“We can go into the World Cup with a positive feeling after winning the Belarus tournament. That showed we had something about us but we have to respect Nigeria and our other opponents in the group, Japan and Mexico. It’s a World Cup, so any opposition is going to be tough.”
Duggan will be surrounded by familiar faces at Germany 2010 with her Everton manager Mo Marley also in charge of both the U-20 squad and the U-19s with whom the 18-year-old launches a busy summer later this month when they defend their European crown.
“Mo knows every aspect of football and lives, sleeps and dreams the game,” Duggan added. “She keeps Everton as Everton and England as England and is very careful to keep the two areas separate. She certainly doesn’t give me any special favours because I play for Everton and I wouldn’t want it any other way.”