Young Everton centre back Megan Finnigan has found her feet at the Under-20s Women’s World Cup, asserting herself firmly at the heart of Mo Marley’s England back line.
Following an opening day victory against defending champions North Korea, the young Lionesses played out a hard-fought 1-1 draw against Brazil, meaning Finnigan and co have the chance to book their place in the knockout stages when they face Mexico on Sunday, kick off 1.30pm GMT.
But after a pair of positive results against arguably two of the strongest sides in the competition, Toffees defender-cum-midfielder Finnigan has faith that England’s momentum can help them qualify from Group B.
“We go into the Mexico game confident.” she said following their tightly-contested draw against Brazil. “At this stage we’ve got four points out of six and that is really not a bad place to be.
“We’ll look at Mexico and see what we can exploit. I’m sure we can punish them. I have every confidence that we can go out there and have a good game.”
England came agonisingly close to claiming all three points in their clash with the South Americans. After Manchester City youngster Georgia Stanway opened the scoring with an 11th-minute penalty, the young Lionesses were only denied victory by a stoppage time strike from Brazil’s Ariadina.
Disappointing as it was, Finnigan and her fellow defenders were imperious throughout, limiting their illustrious opponents to few opportunities. Given former Everton Ladies coach Mo Marley – an ex-England centre half - is currently at the helm, it is unsurprising to see such defensive grit instilled in this young group.
“We really only let them have set plays and a couple of shots if that,” added Finnigan. “We defended really well as a team and the back four especially. We were all proud of that after the game. The goal was disappointing, but it happens.
“To defend the way we did for the majority of the game was a huge positive. But as ever, we’ll look at things we can work on ahead of the next game.
“Having Mo as coach is obviously really good for me because she is top-class. She played as a defender herself and she knows what she’s talking about in terms of one-to-one feedback.
“I trust her. I’ve worked with her for a few years with England so we’ve got a good relationship.’
England need a point to go through as one of the top two sides in Group B against Mexico. The young Lionesses sit on four points, with their opponents and Korea on three. Brazil prop up the group with just one point to their name from their two matches.
But, backed by a heavy following from family and friends who have travelled to France to show their support, Finnigan is optimistic England can progress deep into the tournament.
“We want to go all the way to the end,” she insisted. “Why not? It’s all about momentum, we haven’t lost yet which is a massive thing for us. We’ll take it one step at a time and see what happens against Mexico.
“I’ve got my Mum and Dad here and he’s dressed as St George! My aunty and uncle are here too. They are all still very hopeful that we can go through to the final - and so are we.”
by Nathaniel Kay