A win over Belgium will send England into Euro Elite Round.
England v Belgium
UEFA European Women’s U17 Championship
First Qualifying Round Group 6
4pm BST, Friday 8 October 2010
Lois Fidler will lead her England Women’s U17 side into battle against Belgium this afternoon knowing a victory will propel the Three Lions into the final stage of qualifying for the European Championship.
England have won their opening two First Round Qualifiers, against Turkey (2-0) and Armenia (7-0), but Belgium currently top Group 6 on goal difference, meaning a draw would be enough for Joëlle Piron’s side to clinch automatic qualification as group winners.
The six best runners-up across the ten groups will also progress, but Fidler does not want to leave it to chance.
“We need to win the game, we know that,” said the England Head Coach, “and with that comes a new experience of pressure for the girls, but we have prepared for this game as we have done every other and we will be looking for a third straight win.
“The players know that they can’t rest on their laurels. After scoring seven last time out there will be a certain amount of confidence going into the Belgium game, but it will be far from arrogance. Belgium are always organised, they’re competitive and they’re quick and aggressive going forward, which is always a test. I expect nothing different this time around. They will make it really difficult for us.
“Having said that, I’m hoping that all the lessons and experiences we have gained from the first two games will give us the foundations to step up for this final First Round Qualifier and hopefully we can get the result we need.”
Of Fidler’s 18-strong squad, only six players have previous experience at U17 level. However, many of them will be hoping to one day step up into the U19 and U20 squads en route to a possible place in the senior team set-up. While there is still a long way to go before those aspirations can be realised, Fidler believes playing in a competitive tournament environment can only help her players' progression.
“This is the first UEFA qualifying tournament that many of the girls have played in and the experiences are coming thick and fast, in terms of different types of opposition and different challenges,” she said. “And, in fairness, whatever we have asked of them they have tried to carry out.
“When you’re working with a young, largely inexperienced group of players, half the battle is getting your messages across and hoping they’ll take them on board and put into practice what they’ve been working on. To that end I can’t fault them.
“They’ve still got lots to learn, I think they know that, but the foundations are there, so I’m just hoping they have learned from the experiences of the first two games,” continued Fidler. “In spite of them being 2-0 and 7-0 wins, for different reasons, they were both difficult tests. This next game will be the toughest of the tournament so far, though.
“Part of the reason why the U19s have done so well recently is probably partly down to the experiences they had at U17 level. The tournament experience that the 2008 squad got, both at the Euros and the World Cup certainly held them in good stead when they stepped up into the U19s the following year and went on to win the Euros. Tournament exposure is so important in developing players.
“For the last two years we have fell at the Second Qualifying Round because the tests have been tougher. It is looking a bit far ahead right now, but we need to get through that second phase to get that Finals experience that will really stand these players in good stead.”
While a draw against Belgium might be enough for England to qualify as one of the best second-placed teams, Fidler’s young side will be looking for the win that will guarantee their progress and leave them just one stage away from the coveted European Championship Finals.