Griffiths lauds Young Lionesses' never-say-die attitude

Sunday 02 Oct 2016
John Griffiths's U17s drew their World Cup opener

John Griffiths could not speak highly enough of his England side after they earned a 3-3 draw with North Korea in the opening match of the FIFA Women’s U17 World Cup.

Ellie Brazil and Georgia Stanway goals either side of Hyang Sim Sung’s strike had given the Young Lionesses a 2-1 lead at the break.

Pom Ui Kim equalised midway through the second half before a direct free-kick by Kyong Hui Ko looked to have sealed victory for the 2008 winners.

England 3-3 North Korea

FIFA Women's U17 World Cup
Group C
Saturday 1 October 2016
King Abdullah II International Stadium, Amman, Jordan

But Chelsea youngster Alessia Russo struck in the 94th minute to claim an opening-day point in England’s first World Cup appearance in eight years.

Griffiths said: “I think we did incredibly well. To draw with former World Cup winners, who are world-class, Category A opposition in our first game at a World Cup in eight years takes some doing.

“North Korea are a very, very good side. Japan are the World Cup holders and they beat Japan in qualifying.

We drew with Japan in February and then drew 3-3 here so we have not lost to Asian opposition this year and that’s testament to the group.

“Both of those teams have won this World Cup so that tells you everything about their quality.”

Griffiths praised his players for the way they responded to going 3-2 down with less than 10 minutes remaining.

He said: “The good thing about this group of players is that you always feel they are going to score. We never, ever say die. We are always in the game.

“The players did everything we asked of them. It was a very good performance and I felt that we controlled the first half. I thought we were fine in the second half too, in control, until the free-kick, after which the Koreans got some momentum.

“But we made some changes that gave us a foothold and allowed us to finish the way we did.

England celebrate Ellie Brazil

England celebrate Ellie Brazil's opener

“We expected nothing less than a tough match. It’s a World Cup and anything can happen. It was important we stuck to the game plan and we did that, and we got our just rewards.”

The head coach, who said the timing of Russo’s equaliser makes the draw feel like a win, is immediately looking ahead to England’s second Group C match, against Nigeria on Tuesday.

Griffiths added: “We're focused on qualifying from this group and I think you'll have seen that we have fast, clever forwards who will be a handful for any team.

“The girls are proud of what they have done, as they rightly should be. But nothing changes for us. It’s back to the drawing board and preparation for our next opponent.

“Not losing your first game is important but it doesn’t change anything for us at all.”

By Glenn Lavery