England's rising standards

Gilly Flaherty said "it's a very good time to be an England team at the moment" as the women's Under-19 side look to add to Sunday's UEFA European Under-17 Championship success.

Gilly Flaherty's beaming face was worth a thousand words as the England defender came to terms with the penalty she converted to take the UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship holders through to Saturday's final.

"I had no doubts at all," the left-back said after her spot-kick earned England a 5-4 shoot-out victory over the Netherlands. "I just picked my spot and stuck with it. It's a long time since I've taken a penalty, the first in a European Championship semi-final – a winning penalty at that. I was confident in myself, confident that the rest of the girls would convert their penalties and that Becs [Rebecca Spencer] would do her bit in goal."

An impervious defensive performance ensured the England goalkeeper had little to do during the game, even if Mo Marley's side could never quite find that bit of quality to make their chances count at the other end. "We came in at half-time and Mo was really pleased with us and she repeated that at the end there," said Flaherty. "It's the best we've played at this tournament and we deserved to win. It's just that next time we don't need to leave it to the end and penalties; it's about making chances and taking chances."

The Arsenal LFC youngster had a couple herself from corners just after half-time, denied first by goalkeeper Roxanne van den Berg and then a goal line block from Carmen Manduapessij. Yet when it mattered most, with the shoot-out scores tied at 4-4 following Dutch skipper Siri Worm's earlier miss, she made no mistake, firing into the top corner to send England through to the final against France.

"We'll be going out there to get our trophy back and get our gold medals again," she said, as Marley's team look to build on a bright 12 months for England; holders in this competition, runners-up at UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2009 and last week crowned men's Under-17 European champions. "It's a very good time to be an England team at the moment – everything's looking up for us. We're expecting to get to finals now and with the team we've got there was never any doubt about it here."