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The field at the UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship is down to four, with Italy facing Germany at Chesterfield in Eurosport's televised semi-final on Thursday before hosts England play Spain at Burton-upon-Trent.
Not only will the game decide Sunday's finalists at Chesterfield, but the two winners will qualify for March's FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup, with a third-place play-off in Burton to decide Europe's remaining berth. With the stakes rising, one player – England's Leah Williamson – summed up just what this tournament means to the players competing here in England, describing the semi-final against Spain as the game of her life.
The Arsenal LFC midfielder told UEFA.com: "I can't wait. It will be the biggest game that I've played in my life." For Williamson, the event as a whole has been an experience to treasure.
She added: "Going into the tournament, a lot of people just said 'enjoy it' and I thought I wouldn't because it's such a nerve-racking experience. But it has been amazing. Everything about it is just so professional – you play football for things like this."
However the semi-finals unfold, the championship has already provided a vital learning curve according to Spain defender Núria Garrote. She said: "Those experiences make you a better player and make you improve. You also improve as a team as well, knowing what you have to do at certain moments."
Ultimately, of course, at this stage the four sides are all dreaming of going further – something underlined by Germany's Michaela Specht, who said: "You always try to represent your country as well as you can, and to give it your best. We have the goal to go as far as we can and, ideally, be crowned European champions, which is why we'll give everything."
While Germany have won three of the previous six Women's U17 finals, Italy have never got this far before. Defender Lisa Boattin said: "This is a really major achievement for us, especially since Italy have not qualified for a European Championship finals for years and so reaching the semi-finals as group winners is something that we're really proud of."
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