Lauren Hemp scored a perfect hat-trick against Mexico
She celebrated her 18th birthday five days ago
The Netherlands await in the quarter-finals
It is difficult to imagine giving yourself a better belated birthday present than securing a quarter-final spot with your team at the FIFA U-20 World Cup.
Yet Lauren Hemp managed it, scoring a hat-trick in England’s crucial final group match and earning herself the Player of the Match award. The Manchester City forward found the target three times within 18 second-half minutes to put the game beyond her opponents’ reach for an emphatic 6-1 scoreline.
"I’m pleased that I contributed to the team’s success," the 18-year-old said modestly after the final whistle. "If it wasn’t for everyone then we wouldn’t be able to do what we do or achieve what we’ve achieved. I wouldn’t have been able to get those goals and the Player of the Match award if it weren’t for the rest of the team’s help. It’s all of us collectively that get the final result.”
While success seemed a distant prospect at half-time with the Young Lionesses trailing their Mexican opponents, coach Mo Marley’s side were transformed after emerging from the dressing room, scoring a flurry of goals that turned the match decisively in their favour.
"It was really fantastic from my point of view," Hemp said. "We were losing 1-0 but didn’t let that change the way we play. We just kept going, kept to our game plan, pushed and pushed and starting getting the goals. That’s the good thing about this team – we never give up, no matter what the score is. We just keep on pushing.
"We went into the dressing room determined to keep it positive," she continued. "Even though we were 1-0 down we stayed positive and focused on our game plan. If it wasn’t for all the team trying to keep pushing, we wouldn’t have been able to get that result."
Hemp and her team-mates now face a quarter-final meeting with the Netherlands, who suffered a resounding defeat by France in their final group match. But England’s No9 has not yet turned her attention to their next opponents.
"We will be the same no matter who we come up against," she explained. "We focus on ourselves and can hopefully take that with us into the next game. We haven’t really thought about the other teams yet. We’ll just look to prepare and all 21 of us will be ready."
With that positive attitude and Hemp’s brilliance, England may be tasting success again soon.