The 2007 UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship finals were blessed with a number of bright sparks if no immediate bone fide star. Germany's Isabel Kerschowski was a ready threat and Amandine Henry gracefully pulled the strings for France yet perhaps Fern Whelan shone a little brighter, leading England by example.
Mo Marley's team would finish the tournament in Iceland satisfied in the knowledge that they had never progressed so far after pushing Germany all the way in the final, yet it could all have been very different. Trailing Poland in their opening group game they won a free-kick deep into injury time. Sophie Walton stepped up, delivering into the crowded area where Whelan rose highest to power in a header. England's campaign had been revived in an instant.
A natural leader at the heart of the defence, Whelan showed her team the way throughout the tournament as they exceeded expectations, wins against Norway and well-fancied France helping them beyond the last four for the first time. Goalkeeper Danielle Hill may have been the most vociferous member of the England side, but it was Everton centre-back Whelan who orchestrated a compact defence.
Fleet of foot, strong in the tackle and imperial in the air, she seldom came off second best, even if she did have to settle for a runners-up medal when Germany finally broke through the barricades in extra time during the final. Competition proved fierce for a senior breakthrough, but she managed it as a substitute in a 2-0 May 2011 defeat of Sweden.
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