FIFA U-19 Women's World Championship Canada 2002

FIFA U-19 Women's World Championship Canada 2002

17 August - 1 September

FIFA U-19 Women's World Championship 2002

Tough-tackling England no soft touch

England ran into a bit of a red, white, and blue brick wall in their FIFA U-19 Women's World Championship opener and were summarily thrashed for their efforts 5-1.

The United States, if only recently arrived debutantes to the realm of respectability at the men's senior level, are, and have been for quite some time, the proud, reigning queens of women's football.

By contrast, the game in England, and the culture surrounding it, is still very much a "masculine" endeavour, largely exclusive and somewhat unwelcoming.

Despite some developmental drawbacks and apparent weaknesses, the English are no pushover and earned the respect of the US coaching staff and players despite the lopsided score line. And, as most of the youngsters cut their teeth playing for boy's teams in England, they are some of the most ferocious tacklers and tough cookies you'll run into in the women's game.

When the US surged into attack, they learned that lesson early, as many of the young North American ladies ended up on the ground, slow to get up.

One of the US' top players Heather O'Reilly had some uncompromisingly respectful words for the luckless English after their opening day clash at Victoria's Centennial Stadium. "England is an awesome team … and they are hard tacklers." US Coach Tracey Leone also took time to praise the English side, "This was a very good English team, and we respect them very much."

Hard tacklers to be sure, but the English also have an elegant young attacker in their midst. With the smallest feet in the squad, diminutive striker Ellen Maggs turns up like fine dust all over the field. Gifted with a telepathic impulse for turning defenders and exploding with pace into space, the Arsenal product may well prove the future of English football - and a critical image and icon for other young British girls to look to for a role model.

Following the match, in which she set up her side's only goal, Maggs was open, honest and even a bit critical of the state of the game in her beloved England.

"We don't feel we deserved to lose by that score. Everyone's heads were down after the first two goals. We have the technical ability, and once we put some more money into the game and start playing more together, we will be just as good as the US."

And with the young Lady Gunner leading the way, the future of English women's football may well be on the up and up. But before anyone gets too ahead of themselves, England and spark plug Maggs will have to earn some points in their next match against Chinese Taipei in a battle of the 5-1 Group C victims.

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