England women, International football

England U17 players go home with pride and having learnt a lot during the tournament

Prior to the tournament, I was hoping for the team to get to the semi-finals. Unfortunately a quarter-final defeat to a superb Japan team, means they will go home a round earlier.

There is no doubt, it was an excellent tournament for the young Lionesses, a learning curve discovering different continental football in a competition.

If we go by what happened for the previous England team that went to the U17 finals around a dozen players made it to the seniors or the Next Gen squad.

If things go well, maybe one or two players might get in the squad for the 2019 World Cup. But we are more likely to see them at the 2021 Euros and 2023 World Cup.

The next step for that generation of girls born in 99 is to link up with the girls born in 98 for the 2016/17 U19 Elite Round in Spring 2017. The finals will be played in Northern Ireland and will act as a qualifier for the 2018 U20 World Cup that will take place in Brittany, France.

I think what we saw throughout the tournament that some players managed to raise their level to challenge world class opponents. Stanway, Wubben-Moy, Russo, Charles, Hinds come to mind straightaway.

Others had some up and down performances and hopefully will get more tournament football at U19 and U20 level to prepare for the seniors.

Because as it was mentioned several times the FA is targeting the World Cup 2023 as a winnable competition.

In term of results, a 3-3 draw against North Korea, a 0-0 draw against Nigeria, a 2-1 win against Brazil and a 3-0 defeat against Japan show five goals scored and seven conceded.

I am sure the staff and players will review the defensive phases that led to the goals to learn from the errors and make sure they do not happen again.

Team defending takes a lot of work to be perfected, because it starts from the forwards and all 11 players must be in tune.

On the attacking side, we saw a lot of creativity and work rate from all the forwards.

Obviously, the playmaking role was given to Stanway who was cruelly missed in the Japan game due to suspension. The City midfielder has been superb orchestrating England’s play.

It is just regrettable that suspension deprived the team from one of the biggest asset. I note that she was also suspended in the first group game at the previous U17 Euros, something that needs to be avoided in future atournaments.

On the day against Japan, England struggled in the 4-1-4-1 organisation without Stanway and once chasing a two goal deficit went to a 4-4-2 that brought more stability and attacking power.

You never know what could have happened has England not conceded two goals at crucial times, beginning and end of the first half, but Japan were certainly superb and showed the value of ball possession.

England fought very well with their traditional weapons but lacked a lit bit of composure under a tough Japanese pressing. In the meantime, we saw a referee who did a FIFA style job whistling for every fouls, something that you don’t see in England and it prevented the English players from physically pressurising the Japanese.

There is no doubt that all the girls have grown and learnt during that tournament and hopefully will get a lot of playing with the development teams for the majority of the girls, while those at certain clubs will go back to first team football.

When the FA WSL 2016/17 first winter seasons starts all those young players with the highest potebtiak need to be around the first team squads in order to develop. Because as mentioned by Emma Hayes, the development league is not strong enough.

And another point she mentioned is losing players to scholarship in US universities. We know that many got offers and the FA rarely selects players who are over there in the NCAA for youth teams. A rare exception being the Harvard GK in the last few seasons.

So well done to John Griffiths his staff and all the girls for a fantastic tournament. Let’s hope for more success in the near future.

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