Flint coming of age

Natasha Flint is hoping to make her 18th birthday a more memorable experience than merely marking her coming of age.

The Manchester City forward is in Canada as part of the England Women’s U20 World Cup squad and she spent her landmark birthday, on 2 August, travelling from a Toronto training camp to Moncton, where the Three Lions’ first two group matches will take place.

Five years ago, current England forward, and Flint’s Manchester City team-mate, Toni Duggan celebrated her 18th by scoring the first goal to help the U19s win the European Championship final in Belarus.

World Cup schedule

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

And now, as Mo Marley’s side prepare to open up against South Korea on Wednesday, Flint, who shares her birthday with Three Lions midfielder Laura Bassett, wants her team-mates to shine.

She said: “It’s pretty special being at a World Cup on my 18th. It’s a birthday I’ll always remember and I can celebrate it properly when I get back home.

“If we can go and do something special here in Canada that would make it an unbelievable birthday.

“My family sent presents out for me and I’ve got a party planned for when I get back, for my birthday and for being in the World Cup squad.

“We spent the whole day travelling, but I did get a cake, some personalised lollies and a card from the girls which was nice.”

England qualified for the World Cup by finishing runners-up to France at last season’s Euros.

Seventeen of that squad have travelled to Canada along with Caitlin Leach, Jess Carter and former U17 duo Leah Williamson and Gabby George.

Twenty-five of the 32 World Cup matches will take place on a 4G pitch and the training camp in Toronto allowed the players to get used to the artificial surface.

They also found time to visit Niagara Falls during an afternoon off.

Flint added: “We had a good week in Toronto.

“We all knew each other from the U19s so it wasn’t really about getting to know each other, it was just about settling in to Canada and getting some good training sessions under our belts.

“Toronto was really nice and the weather was pretty good the whole time.

“Niagara Falls was amazing. It is the best place I’ve been to. We got as close to the Falls as we could and we got to go into the tunnels underneath the waterfall.

“Our whole experience of Canada has been brilliant so far.”

On Sunday morning, the whole squad sat through two official meetings with representatives from FIFA, to discuss anti-doping regulations and refereeing decisions, as well as posing for their official tournament head shots.

This is the first FIFA tournament any of these players have been to – and Flint said the whole squad is loving every minute.

She explained: “Now we’re in Moncton we know our first game is just around the corner, so we’re all switched on.

“Now it feels like we are properly in the tournament. And this is a massive tournament.

“Going to the Euros last year was big. But being picked for a World Cup squad is a dream come true.

 “If we play how we played at last year’s Euros I think we’ve got a good chance. We are playing against some good teams but we’ve got a lot of good players and we are confident in each other’s ability.

“If we play to our best we should be alright.”

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), Abbey-Leigh Stringer (Aston Villa), 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).