Mo: Turn hurt into success

Mo Marley has urged her England Women’s U20 side to harness the hurt of their World Cup exit to help them achieve greater success in the future.

The Young Lions slipped to a 2-1 defeat by Nigeria which, coupled with draws against South Korea and Mexico, meant they failed to make it beyond the group stage of Canada 2014.

Twelve of the squad could have played at this year’s U19 Euro finals in Norway and seven of them are still young enough to play at next year’s Euros – which also doubles up as an U20 World Cup qualifying campaign.

England 1-2 Nigeria

FIFA Women’s U20 World Cup
Group C
Thursday 14 August 2014
Commonwealth Stadium, Edmonton

Marley said: “I can only be proud of what the players have put into this team over the past couple of years.

“We had no right to finish second in the Euros last year because we had a really, really young squad, but the players excelled and subsequently qualified for this World Cup.

“They were inexperienced at this level and I think that told in the end.

“Of course the players are disappointed now, but the big test is what they do next and what they learn from this whole experience.

“I said before the Mexico game that there is no use in us going out and doing really well in this World Cup but then none of the players make it into the senior squad in the future.

“This tournament has finished but there is a bigger picture. The girls must remember that.”

England went into the Nigeria game knowing a win would guarantee their progress to the last eight and they got off to a dream start when Everton forward Nikita Parris put them in front after just five minutes.

Nikita Parris celebrates the opening goal against Nigeria

Nikita Parris celebrates her early goal

The Africans equalised against the run of play just before half-time, courtesy of Loveth Ayila’s 25-yarder.

And then two second-half penalties changed the course of the match. Sunderland striker Beth Mead blazed her spot-kick over the bar while, just five minutes later, Asisat Oshoala calmly converted her penalty which ultimately ended England’s World Cup campaign.

Marley added: “The penalties were two significant turning points.

“I mentioned it in my pre-match press conference ; that’s the difference at this level. If you get an opportunity you have to be clinical.

“When they equalised our body language changed. We had played so well early on and had gone in front and when they equalised I think that was a big psychological blow.

“But we responded quite well. It was always going to be tough after the penalty but we tried, we pushed. The players had to take risks and that left us open.”

She continued: “I thought we started the game exceptionally well. There were a few things we identified that we could take advantage of and we did that.

“Once we got the goal I think we settled on that, a bit like we did in the Mexico game. We dropped off a little bit instead of taking the initiative and pushing forward.”

Marley, who has now led three different England sides at an U20 World Cup, said this particular squad has come a long way since their opening Euro qualifier in April 2013.

They lost that particular game 5-4 to Serbia, but bounced back with successive 3-0 wins, over Hungary and Norway, to book their spot in the finals – where they eventually finished runners-up to France, a run which also meant they qualified for this World Cup.

Seven eligible in 2015

Jess Carter
Natasha Flint
Gabby George
Caitlin Leach
Ellie Stewart
Leah Williamson
Katie Zelem

Marley explained: “We’ve had mixed experiences with this group of players over the last couple of years.

“It tells you how far we have come when you think back to the Euro qualifiers last year.

“We had to beat the host nation 2-0 to qualify for the Euros. Before that game nobody gave us a chance and we ended up winning 3-0.

“That just shows you that there is quality in this squad and we can normally produce when we need to.

“But now it’s about how the players respond. It’s about what they want for their future England careers.

“I’m sure they have learned a lot over the last 12 months. Hopefully they can use that to make them even better players in the future.”