Reds U20 World Cup bronze medalists Niamh & Rinsola
U20 Women's World Cup medalists Niamh and Rinsola tell us about their experience in France.
Liverpool FC Women attackers Niamh Charles and Rinsola Babajide were part of the England squad that came back from the FIFA U20s Women's World Cup in France with bronze medals. Here they tell us all about the experience...
It must have been a great feeling to return home with a medal?
NC: We definitely went there with medal aspirations. We wanted to win the tournament but although that didn't happen, to come away with a medal and have something to show for all the hard work we put in over the whole year - but specifically leading up to the World Cup - was a real cherry on top of the cake.
RB: It was a good experience, especially because we didn't do as well as we thought we would in the Euros the previous year. We just thought that we'd show the world what we are actually capable of doing.
You started with a 3-1 win over North Korea. It's always important to make a good start in tournament football?
NC: Yes. You always put a lot of prep into your first game and you want to start fast and really set the tone in terms of how you want to go on in the tournament. I think we did that really well in the first game and showed the other teams there what we were about. That was a really good start for us to kick on with that for the rest of the competition and we hit the ground running.
In game two, you were held to a 1-1 draw by Brazil who scored a late equaliser?
RB: We were just taking it one game at a time. Fair enough, we didn't get the result that we wanted from the Brazil game but at the same time we knew that we were better than that result and that we had goals in us going into the next game. We didn't hide away from the Brazil game but took all the positives that we could into the next match and finished the group strongly with a 6-1 win against Mexico.
Was there a different approach in terms of mentality once you were into the quarter-finals?
NC: With tournament football there's the whole penalties aspect of it but, like Rins said, it was one game at a time and we couldn't think about the knockout stages until we got out of the group. Once t there, we knew that we had lost to Holland in the Euros in 2017 so there was that aspect as well. We knew we didn't have to change much just because it was a knockout game. We'd done really well to that point so it was just about focusing on what we did. We performed well and got the result (2-1).
Two goals in five minutes in the semi-final against Japan saw you miss out on a place in the final...
RB: I feel like we had tired legs in that game so we couldn't actually execute the game plan as well as we might have done had we been fresher. But as substitutes coming into that game I felt that we both made an impact. Unfortunately, we weren't able to score but I thought we still did our best.
NC: On the day we were beaten by the better team and all credit to Japan. They went on and won the tournament and rightly so. Of course, there are things we would have changed in hindsight when we look back on it, but we know that we gave it our all.
The third-place game against France still gave you the chance to come back with that medal?
NC: Obviously losing in a semi-final is awful at the time but then once you digest that and move on you think, 'right, the third-place play-off is our new final.' And again we'd lost to France in the Euros the year before and with them being the home nation we knew it was going to be a big game. We just adapted it to thinking, 'this is our World Cup final, we are not going to be the only team in the last four going home without anything.' We really gave it everything.
RB: We'd come that far that we didn't want to just let the opportunity go past us. We wanted to make sure that we did get the bronze medal.
Did you practise penalties leading up to the game?
NC: Yes, we'd practised them at the end of training throughout. Whenever we practised set plays, we would practise penalties as well. I don't think we focused too much or over-thought them though and that showed as we were quite relaxed and we all had our penalty techniques so it really worked.
RB: Everyone was more than happy to step-up and take a penalty because we had practised so much. Of course, that wasn't our main focus but we knew that we would be confident to take one if required.
What was it like working under [England coach] Mo Marley for that month?
NC: Mo was unbelievable. The amount of work that you see her put in makes you want to do more. But not just her, the entire staff worked so, so hard and that only gave us more motivation to go out and do well. I think looking back and comparing the Euros in 2017 to the World Cup, the mood on camp was so good this time with the bond between staff and players and also within the playing squad. We genuinely like spending time with each other and I think that helped us to do well.
It was still a tough tournament for you Niamh?
NC: From a personal point of view, it was a frustrating time. The team was doing unbelievably well which was great but I had pulled my calf early on and that kept me out for a few games and coming back from that I was hit with gastroenteritis so I was isolated for a few days. Looking back at it now, it was a very hard time for me personally but hopefully how I dealt with that will benefit me in the future in terms of the lessons I learned. The role that I had to play in the games when I was ruled out was different and not one I'd done before. But it was just about the team and the team was flying so that made it a bit easier.
Coming back to Liverpool must almost feel like you are joining a new team?
NC: I think the players we've brought in have gelled really quickly. They had a pre-season tour and the mood and the team spirit's really good. We all get on well which only benefits what happens on the pitch as well.
RB: I'd say we are definitely in a good place in terms of the environment. Everyone is together and willing to work hard for each other so it's exciting times and I'm really looking forward to the season as it develops.
Liverpool F.C. Women face Yeovil Town this Sunday 14 October at Prenton Park. Tickets start from just £2.50 and are available online or at the turnstile.