John Griffiths has led his England side to the FIFA Women’s U17s World Cup finals – but he has asked his players to already be thinking about a place at the senior equivalent in 2023.
The Young Lionesses finished third at the recent Euro finals in Belarus to seal their place at Jordan 2016.
Group C schedule
v North Korea, Saturday 1 October
v Nigeria, Tuesday 4 October
v Brazil, Saturday 8 October
And the head coach realises the importance of competing against the top, non-European, nations in terms of developing his young squad for the England senior team.
Griffiths said: “For the girls to be able to play against African, Asian and South American opponents at such a young age is wonderful.
“It will be a great test and it will stand them in good stead for 2023. The vision is always long-term. It’s about preparing these girls for senior international football.
“Having had five games in the Euro finals and then potentially another five in Jordan means they will have picked up an extra 10 international caps and that’s the most important thing.
“Are we looking to win the World Cup? Well we won’t be there to make up the numbers. We will try and win every game. But the most important thing is that these girls keep getting to world and European finals to give them that experience.
“We know all the stats: the best teams in the world are the ones that accumulate the most international appearances at youth level.
“The more we can give our players the opportunity to play against Category A opposition, the better.”
England’s World Cup campaign will begin against North Korea in just under four months, and Griffiths must name his 21-player squad by Tuesday 20 September, but preparations are already under way.
He explained: “We were very lucky as a staff group that we got to do a senior World Cup study last year, so we’ve already started looking at different continents and different opponents to see their styles of play and what their youth teams do, so we’re already down the line with our preparations.
“Mo Marley [England Women’s U19s and U20s head coach] has got a plethora of experience against some of these teams from the U20s so she will have some knowledge to lend.
“But we’ll continue to do our homework and we will prepare the group well.”
England’s current crop of U17s internationals have really excelled this season.
Chelsea forward Alessia Russo finished the finals as joint top scorer with five goals, while Niamh Charles (four), Hannah Cain, Ellie Brazil and Anna Filbey (all three) were also among the top eight goalscorers in Belarus.
Charles topped the assists chart with six, while Cain and Russo chipped in with three each.
And they are the first-ever England side to qualify outright for the U17s World Cup; Lois Fidler’s then-side were invited to take part in 2008.
Griffiths added: “I said earlier in the year that this group of staff are world-class and they really are.
“They deserve some real credit because they are a massive reason why we have reached the World Cup.
“But I must also credit the players, too. They have worked exceptionally hard both on- and off-camp. It’s not necessarily just about what the players do when they are with us, but what they do when they’re not.
“They are thoroughly, thoroughly excited about Jordan but they know their hard work doesn’t stop now.
“They all understand they are competing for places in the final 21-player squad.
“But they are so excited about the challenge of World Cup football.”