Gemma Davies 'over the moon' with England WU19s' EURO qualification
Head coach Gemma Davies stated she was ‘over the moon’ for her players and staff after England women’s under-19s qualified for this summer’s EUROs.
England WU19s went into Tuesday’s game with Belgium knowing a draw would be enough to qualify for the UEFA European Women’s Under-19s Championship in Czech Republic.
But Aggie Beever-Jones’ second-half hat-trick meant the Young Lionesses qualified in style at St. George’s Park.
Speaking shortly after qualification was secured, Davies said: “Firstly, I’m naturally very relieved and secondly I am over the moon really for all of the girls and the staff.
“They have worked really hard over the last six months and it all accumulated into this one game and we got the result. We are going to a European Finals!”
But the Young Lionesses entered the final 20 minutes of the match with Belgium with the game goalless and knowing a single strike from their opponents had the potential to end their hopes of reaching the EUROs Finals.
But two goals in five minutes from Beever-Jones relieved some of the pressure and the victory was rounded off in the 85th minute when the Chelsea forward completed her hat-trick.
Davies said: “I would be lying if I said there wasn’t nerves [in the game], there definitely was, but I think we put ourselves in a really good position in the first round of qualifying, when we put ourselves in the position that we were on the better side of the draw, so a lot of the groundwork was done in October.
“We were maybe on the more favourable side of the draw but the opposition we have faced over the last ten days have been really difficult and have posed different challenges. We have had to tweak and adapt to each fixture so today was difficult for sure but I would say it was our best performance so far in this group.”
Davies told her team at half-time to keep it simple and try to play into the wide areas quicker, and it paid dividends in the second half thanks to Beever-Jones’ hat-trick.
The forward has spent this season on loan at FA Women’s Championship side Bristol City and Davies believes the teenager is one of several squad members to be benefitting from playing senior football during the 2021-22 campaign.
Davies said: “She is a great character and she has a huge influence on the group because of the bubbly nature she has. She is very funny but down to earth and hard-working. The hard-working is key because you saw that in her performance. She is super diligent and hard-working.
“That led to her staying in the game because at this age players have a tendency to drop off, switch off and lose focus in moments but throughout the 90 minutes she stayed in the game and you saw that with her performance and the three goals that she scored.”
She continued: “The exposure that the kids are getting out on loan in the Championship or even in some cases at WSL teams gives them the exposure that they perhaps don’t get when they are playing academy football.
“Naturally those individuals who are getting that game time and exposure, it helps when they get here [with England WU19s] because they have a better rhythm and momentum to the things that they do. You can see that with a lot of the players coming into this camp.”
England WU19s now have a month to wait before they find out who will be in their group at the 2022 UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship Finals, with the draw on May 18.
Hosts Czech Republic and the Young Lionesses will be joined by France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and the Group 4 winners during the competition, which will take place between June 27 and July 9.
The eight teams will be split into two groups of four, before the top two progress to the semi-final stage.
Davies said: “Of course, we are there to try to win the tournament, that is what we want to do, and our eyes are very much on competing with the best and going as far as we can.
“For a lot of us, it will be our first experience of a major tournament but initially our focus will be on concentrating on those first group games once we know what the draw is and then taking it from there.”