Marley dampens expectations ahead of U20 World Cup

Wednesday 06 Aug 2014
Mo Marley gets her message across

Mo Marley has attempted to temper expectations ahead of England’s FIFA Women’s U20 World Cup campaign.

The Young Lions open up against Asian champions South Korea on Wednesday, just 12 months after finishing runners-up to France at the U19 Euros.

England are the only nation to have qualified for both this year’s U20 World Cup and the European U19 Championship, meaning Marley has had to select two separate squads.

England v South Korea

FIFA Women's U20 World Cup
Group C
9pm BST, Wednesday 6 August 2014
Moncton, Canada
Live on Eurosport

And, despite their silver medal in Wales last summer, the head coach believes it is a big ask for her side to perform to such a high level two years in succession.

Marley said: “It’s a long time since we’ve made it to an U20 World Cup so it was a big thing for our girls to qualify.

“None of the players have been to a World Cup before so it’s an exciting time for them and they are just embracing the opportunity.”

She continued: “We are realistic about where we are.

“The preparation for European teams is very difficult because [the World Cup] crosses over with the U19 Euros. You have to split your preparation, split two squads.

“We understand the level of opposition is greater and potentially one year older than our girls. We are more of an U19 team than an U20 team, but the players are here in their own right. They are here because they are good enough to be selected.

“We’ve got a lot of 16- and 17-year-olds in the squad and we are asking them to play in an U20 World Cup. They are still developing as young people and that’s part of the process as well as the football.”

This is the third England team Marley will lead at an U20 World Cup, following the appearances in 2008 and 2010, though no Three Lions side has ever got beyond the quarter final stage.

Nine players who experienced at least one of those tournaments were in Mark Sampson’s senior squad for last weekend’s 4-0 win over Sweden in Hartlepool – and six of them helped England win the U19 Euros in 2009.

But Marley has warned that success in Europe does not guarantee silverware at a World Cup.

She added: “We have come into a World Cup with strong expectations in the past.

“We won the European Championship and then went into the World Cup the following year and didn’t win a game.

World Cup schedule

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

“So teams with a lot of experience of World Cup football are definitely at an advantage.

“We have set our own objectives and that is to do as well as we did last year in the European Championship.

“That was an unknown competition for us and we probably excelled beyond our own expectations by getting to the final. We know that’s probably a bit unrealistic in this competition, based on England’s previous results in a World Cup.”

However, Marley has urged her players to make the most of being at a World Cup in Canada – and she organised a trip to Niagara Falls and the CN Tower during a 10-day training camp in Toronto.

She explained: “We want the girls to enjoy the whole experience, yet still be professional – and whichever team does that the best won’t be far off.

“It’s about finding the right balance. Ultimately it’s about preparing the players well enough so that they play to their true potential.

“It would be a shame for the players to leave the tournament and not have any fond memories of it.

“If they are good people and they apply themselves correctly then I’m sure they will go away with some good memories of this competition.

“The strength of our team is the personal relationships among each other. They are happy to play for each other and that has been fundamental to our success over the last 12 months.”

England face Mexico on Saturday and their final group match is against Nigeria in Edmonton next Wednesday.

By Glenn Lavery in Moncton, Canada