England co-captain Gilly Flaherty has said that "going out in the semi-finals is just not an option" as the holders look to put the rarest of defeats behind them when they meet the Netherlands on Wednesday.
In 2008, the British television series Yeardot documented the trials and tribulations youngsters endured as they pursued fledgling careers, trying to find their place in the harsh adult world. One subject was a gauche female footballer called Gilly Flaherty, pursuing her dream of playing at the top of the game with Arsenal LFC but frustrated by having to await her chance – the familiar grievance of youth.
Two years on and Flaherty is instantly recognisable as the girl in the video, but gone are the crippling frustrations. She sits proudly, now an Arsenal regular and an English titleholder, with a UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship-winners' medal back home and another, she hopes, in the offing. "I've grown up a lot over the past few years," said the 18-year-old. "I know you will always have setbacks in your career – overcoming them is what makes you stronger as a person."
That resolve will be tested on Wednesday when, for only the second time in her 23-match England U19 career, Flaherty will approach a match on the back of a defeat after losing 2-1 to Germany on Sunday. "We've had ups and downs throughout these finals: winning against Scotland then trailing Italy until late in the second half and coming back to make it 2-1," she said. "Then we lost to Germany, but the mood is positive – we're looking forward to the semi-finals.
"I don't think England will ever lose the winning habit. A loss is always unexpected, but we've lost before so we know what it's like and we'll come back stronger than ever. We dominated through qualifying and also last year in Belarus, so it's been hard – unusual for us to be up against it – especially in the first half against Italy. It really tested our unity and spirit – obviously we proved in the second half that we can step it up."
They will need to do so again when they meet a Netherlands side that powered through to the last four with a 100 per cent record for a game which will be televised in England. "It's good that it'll be on telly; it'll be nice for friends and family who were unable to come out here," said Flaherty, who shares England captaincy duties with striker Toni Duggan. "But we've got to focus on winning because the final is our aim. That's most important.
"I've been there; I know what it is like. We've got to go and win it again. I had a good season at Arsenal and now I want to carry it on by winning something here as well." She may be more mature, but Flaherty's hunger and drive remain undimmed.
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