Likened to Fernando Torres by one fan in Kumanovo, Toni Duggan's reaction to orchestrating England's Lazarus act was more restrained as she stays focused on defending the title.
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Likened to Fernando Torres by one face in the crowd at the Milano Arena, Toni Duggan's reaction to orchestrating England's Lazarus act on Thursday was somewhat more restrained.
There is a phalanx of drivers at this tournament, former players and referees who volunteer to ferry team attachés and UEFA staff to games and training. Their English is often limited to naming big European clubs and either nodding or shaking their heads. On the 45-minute journey back to Skopje from Kumanovo on Thursday, the driver said just three telling words: "England [points to his back] nine – Torres," before thankfully returning his hands to the steering wheel.
The object of his admiration was Duggan, the forward who masterminded England's dramatic turnaround against Italy. As her team seemed headed for a 1-0 Group A defeat, she equalised with three minutes remaining, playing a clever one-two on the edge of the box before lashing the ball into the far corner. It left enough time to force the winner, Duggan's back-heel releasing Isobel Christiansen, whose shot was clawed away only as far as Lauren Bruton. With her first touch, the substitute turned the ball into the empty net.
Could Duggan sum up her feelings? "I think we should be a bit disappointed with ourselves," she replied a little surprisingly. "I know we've gone through to the semi-finals, but the first-half performance just wasn't good enough. We've got to get out on the training pitch and sort ourselves out for the next game against Germany – we've got to up our standards. I'm sure the girls will bounce back."
Not many talk of bouncing back from victories, but it is a sign of the exacting standards England have developed over the past few seasons – last year's maiden title has merely fuelled hunger for more. "We keep reminding ourselves of the feeling in Belarus and we want to do it again," said Duggan, a goalscorer in the final ten months ago. "We're the only ones here that really know what it feels to win it. It spurs us on and that eventually shone through today."
The key word is eventually, because for much of the first half the UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship holders wilted as temperatures soared beyond 30C. Duggan seemed best able to cope, continuing to plug away as her team-mates struggled. It is what Mo Marley, her manager here and at club level for Everton LFC, has come to know and love, saying: "That's her game. Asking her to occasionally slow it down a little bit is asking her to do something out of character.
"But you can run and run all day – it doesn't mean anything if you don't deliver quality at the end of it. Credit to her, I thought she took her goal exceptionally well. We'd missed a few chances before then, but she had that end product. After that, they really started to believe in themselves." She may not be Torres, but Duggan's talismanic value is no less important for England.