Everton Ladies trio Megan Finnigan, Chloe Kelly and Taylor Hinds travelled to France to compete in the Under-20s World Cup for England in the summer.
A memorable few weeks saw them defeat the reigning champions and reach the semi-finals before ultimately coming away with a bronze medal after a penalty win over hosts France.
Evertonfc.com sat down with the trio to look back on an unforgettable experience, one that the three hope gives them a platform for success now back with the Blue Girls…
Girls, it’s been a few weeks now – has it sunk in that you’re World Cup bronze medallists?
MF: Not really. I don’t think any of us have really taken in how much of an achievement it has been to come back with a medal. We wanted gold, of course, but to take a bronze home from a World Cup is a huge accomplishment.
CK: Going into the tournament, we wanted to bring back some silverware and we did just that. It was a good competition for each of us individually and collectively as a team. We were pleased to come away with a bronze.
How have your families reacted to bringing those medals home?
TH: They wanted to see it as soon as I got home. Everyone was so proud of me and it’s such a fantastic achievement.
It was a tough start against North Korea, wasn’t it?
MF: I don’t think many of us could have expected to do so well in the first game. To beat the reigning champions 3-1 gave us such a buzz. To take three points against a very good team set us up for the rest of the tournament. We knew from that moment we could go on and do something special.
Chloe, you can now say you have scored at a World Cup finals after your goal against Mexico.
CK: It took me until the last group game which was a bit too long. We scored a lot of goals in the group stage, and in that last game we were 1-0 down at half-time before coming back to win 6-1. It showed the fight we have in us.
Taylor, what was the secret behind the spirit in that group?
TH: Everyone just had belief. Even those outside the team had it and really lifted our spirits to go and win a medal. Obviously everyone wants to play every game and that includes myself but I was just honoured to be there. For those not in the team, it was about supporting those who were.
How painful was the defeat to Japan in the semi-finals?
MF: It hurt, for sure, because we wanted to get to the final and win it. But we held our heads high because especially in the second half we really caused them problems. It just wasn’t our day. They were worthy winners of the tournament in the end. After our third-place match we all stayed behind to watch the final and I think all of us were rooting for Japan.
How did you pick yourselves up after that game?
CK: Simply that we wanted to come away with a medal. We didn’t want to come fourth – we wanted to be remembered. We got ourselves back on track in training the day after the Japan game and we just knew we had to get the job done against France.
You beat France for the bronze medal and became the side that has gone the furthest at the age level in the World Cup. You must be proud of that?
CK: Definitely. As a team, we did such a great job out there and we wanted something to remember that by.
How much does the experience of that tournament give you a lift now you’re back at Everton?
TH: Being out in France and playing in the tournament has been so motivating for us. Coming back with a medal makes you want to keep progressing and keep getting better as an individual and as a team. Hopefully we have brought that fire that we had as a team with England back with us to Everton.