sport

Fidler eyeing historic final

Head coach Lois Fidler insists her players have a once in a lifetime opportunity to make history by reaching the final of the UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship for the very first time.

England play Spain at Burton's Pirelli Stadium on Thursday as they hope to set up an historic encounter with either Italy or Germany who go head-to-head in the other semi-final.

Fidler revealed her players have overcome the pressure of playing at home as they try and emulate the England Under-19 side who reached the final of the European Women's Under-19 Championship in August.

"The players are really excited, the support has been great, the motivation is there," Fidler said. "It would be such a great thing to do, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

"Initially (playing at home) was pressure, the players felt our expectations and they're representing the standard of English women's football, which has had a bit of a tough time over the last 12 months.

"The Under-19s got to their final in August, that was a big boost, and we wanted to emulate that. We wanted to show there's some good work that takes place in our system.

"The players went into the first game apprehensive, big noisy crowds, couldn't really hear, but have then embraced it. I've been quoted as saying it's been a bit of a 12th man for us, it makes a big difference and they're loving it. It gets a little bit more out of them."

Fidler knows England face a difficult game against two-time tournament winners Spain, but insists their primary focus remains qualifying for next year's Under-17 World Cup in Costa Rica.

"We've been in semi-finals before with this age group in 2008 at both the World Cup and European Championship but we're really keen for this group of players, having qualified as hosts for this tournament, to stamp their authority on this year's campaign by qualifying for the World Cup," she said.

"That is our main aim and requires a top-three finish. And that will be history because in 2008 we qualified as a wild card having come fourth in Europe after an African nation pulled out.

"So, for us, all of our sights are on World Cup qualification and if that is achieved on Thursday with victory at the semi-final stage then fantastic. Then our focus will go on to winning the tournament."