England U20s ‘on track’

England are “on track” ahead of their opening FIFA Women’s U20 World Cup group match on Wednesday, according to assistant manager Gemma Grainger.

The Three Lions get their Canada 2014 campaign under way against South Korea in Moncton and Grainger believes the squad are ready to perform following a week-long training camp in Toronto.

Grainger said: “The plan was to use Toronto to acclimatise and we did exactly that so we’re pleased.

World Cup schedule

v South Korea, Wednesday 6 August
v Mexico, Saturday 9 August
v Nigeria, Wednesday 13 August

“It was good for the girls to spend some time together again because they hadn’t been together as a group for a couple of months. It also allowed us to reinforce some key messages.

“One of the biggest things we have put in place in terms of acclimatisation are the cooling strategies – wearing ice jackets, spraying the players with water during breaks in training, letting them dunk their hands and wrists in ice cold water, things like that.

“That helps them cope with the hot weather and they are quickly finding out what works for them and what doesn’t.

“And now they are here in Moncton it feels real for them. We’re on track.”

Every England game will be played on a 4G pitch – the only grass pitch is at the National Soccer Stadium in Toronto – but Grainger says the squad are unperturbed by the prospect of playing on an artificial surface.

She added: “The times we have had the players together this year we have played on 4G.

“We are finding things out about the surface, particularly how different types of weather affects it and how the ball bounces.

“From a players’ point of view they all now know what it feels like to play 90 minutes on a 4G pitch and what type of footwear they should be using.”

The majority of this England squad finished runners-up to France at last year’s U19 Euros and they defeated fellow World Cup participants Finland 4-0 in the semi-final.

Five members of the squad flew to Spain with the Under-23s in March to compete in the annual La Manga Tournament, while goalkeeper Lizzie Durack made her senior team debut in the Cyprus Cup.

Now Grainger wants England to use the momentum from the last 12 months and transfer their European Championship form onto the world stage.

She said: “We’ve got to reflect on the good work we did last year. We should remember the things we did well and try to build on that.

“We nearly won something last year but it wasn’t quite good enough but we’ve got that to build on.

“We have got confidence in their ability and now we have to give them the motivation to go take that extra step.”

This is England’s fourth appearance at an U20 World Cup – a tournament viewed as a key stepping stone in terms of development.

On Sunday, Mark Sampson’s England senior team defeated Sweden 4-0 in Hartlepool and 12 members of that squad appeared in a previous U20 tournament.

The latest intake get their campaign up and running against South Korea and Grainger insists they are ready for the challenge.

She said: “We know what we’ve got to do well.

“We have anticipated what South Korea are going to do and we have given the players some guidance on that but ultimately it’s about us being ready to implement our strategy.

“We’re pretty confident that if we do that then we’ll get the result we want.”

England’s U20 World Cup squad in full

Goalkeepers
Lizzie Durack (Everton), Caitlin Leach (Aston Villa), Megan Walsh (Everton)

Defenders
Gabrielle George (Everton), Martha Harris (Liverpool), Aoife Mannion (Birmingham City), Meaghan Sargeant (Birmingham City), Ellie Stewart (Liverpool), Paige Williams (Everton)

Midfielders
Jade Bailey (Arsenal), Sherry McCue (Aston Villa), Jess Sigsworth (Doncaster Rovers Belles), Abbeyleigh Stringer (Birmingham City), Leah Williamson (Arsenal), Katie Zelem (Liverpool)

Forwards
Hannah Blundell (Chelsea), Jess Carter (Birmingham City), Natasha Flint (Manchester City), Mel Lawley (Birmingham City), Beth Mead (Sunderland), Nikita Parris (Everton).