England manager exclusive and World Cup draw examined

WALSALL, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 24: England women's interim head coach Mo Marley looks on during the FIFA Women's World Cup Qualifier between England and Bosnia at Banks' Stadium on November 24, 2017 in Walsall, England. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

The women’s u20 World Cup draw took place in Rennes, France on Thursday and our resident expert was there for it.

As England were seeded in pot 4, they were expecting a tough draw and it did not disappoint with Korea DPR, Mexico, and Brazil their opponents.

England will play their first game in Dinan-Lehon against Korea DPR at 4.30 pm CET on 5th August.

Their second group game, also in Dinan-Lehon, against Brazil will kick-off at 1.30 pm CET on 8th August. 

Their final group game, in Saint-Malo against Mexico on 12th of August, kicks-off at 1.30 pm CET.

Those two towns are very close to each other and close to the Dinard airport making it easy for friends and families, as well as fans, to come and support the team.

Saint-Malo can only be reached by ferries from the South coast.

The quarter-finals will be played in Vannes and Concarneau on 16th 17th August while both semi-finals and the final will be played at the Stade De la Rabine in Vannes, on 20th and 24th August respectively.

The quarter-finals should be interesting as England could come up against a team from group A that includes hosts France, as well New Zealand, Ghana and the Netherlands.

After the draw, we spoke to Mo Marley to get her reaction.

When asked about the task of getting out of the group, Marley said, “It is a tough draw, we are aware of that. We did not qualify for some of the previous World Cups like in 2012, so this time we are happy to be here.

“Whoever we drew, we knew it was going to be tough.”

Marley may think the group is tough but she is confident about the team’s strengths and quality. “We are ready, we’ve had a good season.

“The teams we are in the group with we are quite familiar with. We have played Mexico in previous tournaments and we have played Brazil quite recently.

“The only ones who are bit unknown is of course Korea DPR.

“We all know that they are the reigning champions, so I think everybody knows what to expect.”

I asked about the final 21-player squad that will be selected prior to the tournament in August and how close she is to knowing her full selection.

“We are blessed. We have obviously a selection of girls born in 98, 99 and 2000 as well.

“We have a strong pool of players. We have had couple of tournaments recently and a lot of players have acquainted themselves exceptionally well. It will be very hard to make the final cut to 21.

“We have several camps coming up now [that should help].”

This will include the La Manga tournament in April where England will play three interesting games against China u20, USA u23 and Norway u23.

“There will be other camps in June and July, so I think it will go right down to the final camp where we can actually make the final decision about the squad.

“The girls have everything to play for.

I think it is quite interesting that she mentions girls born in the year 2000 as the core of the group is players born in 98/99, with many of them having proven themselves at the u17 World Cup in 2017 in Jordan.

There are certainly some excellent 18-year-olds, like Ella Rutherford and Hannah Hampton, that could make a late bid for a place in the squad if they carry on performing well for their clubs.

The situation regarding the dozen or so players now US-based, as they combine studies and football at University, is mentioned to Marley and the complexities that comes with  evaluating them.

“I think it has been difficult in its own right, for different reasons, but the players have been very professional with the way they have handled themselves this year. 

“The bonus about them being in the United States has been a lot of them have been playing regular football and challenged, so it has its positives and its negatives.

“But that’s no different than the players who are playing at home in England.”

Like last year, before the u19 Euro finals, Marley mentions that game time is a priority and a big selection criteria.

We all remember how Rianna Dean, now at Millwall, missed out on a place in the final squad as Pedro Losa gave her no playing time in the Spring Series, despite promising to do so.

“The most important thing going into a World Cup is obviously playing time, opportunities to learn and opportunity for players to develop and to play at a good a standard and we have that balance across with most of our players this season.”

England have a good chance to reach the semi-finals with one of the strongest squads they have ever had at this level and we will be following them in their quest for glory in August in sunny Britanny.