Today is a Bank Holiday in the United Kingdom and, you would think, the moment for a well-earned rest for the Wales squad who yesterday checked out of the UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship.
Not so for their buccaneering left-back Lauren Hancock. Despite having played three games in seven days for the home side, the 19-year-old from Swansea is straight back into work at a local coffee shop. The business should, at least, be doing a roaring trade judging by Hancock's all-action approach during Wales's 3-0 loss to France in Haverfordwest.
The Cardiff City LFC defender may have lost the war – as Jarmo Matikainen's already eliminated team fell to a third Group A defeat – yet she arguably won her personal battle. None of the French goals came from cutbacks, with the tenacious No3 tending to concede little ground to France's right-sided raiders.
Her post-match assessment was as positive as her defending had been, the tow-haired teenager having stood up resolutely to wave upon wave of French attacks. "It wasn't an easy game, but it was really good playing against one of the top teams in Europe," she told UEFA.com. "It was an opportunity to get a result or cause an upset – unfortunately we couldn't – but everyone gave 110% and it was fantastic."
For Hancock, despite the successive reverses against Denmark, Wales and now France, "every moment from minute one has been fantastic". She added: "It's been a massive test for everyone, including myself. Playing against top-quality players has been absolutely brilliant. If anything it's gone better than expected. Maybe we shipped goals too easily, but I was quite shocked when we played Denmark, and then in every other performance, because we've been good."
Whether succumbing to a solitary Danish strike or conceding three apiece against England and France, Welsh heads never dropped. Yesterday, in fact, they summoned the necessary pride, strength and energy to resist a French side desperate for goals for the last 43 minutes at Bridge Meadow. It was a sterling effort from a team beaten on the scoreboard but never in terms of morale.
"It was difficult to keep going but pride is a massive thing in our game and we didn't want to go home with any regrets," Hancock revealed. "I think two of France's goals were fantastic, one of them we could have prevented a bit better, but overall it's been brilliant. The coach has been absolutely fantastic since he came in two, two and a half years ago. I've learned so much from him."
The full-back classes herself as "definitely" more confident than she was a fortnight ago and, already in her first season with Cardiff in the Welsh women's top flight, she now aims to feature in the senior Wales squad for their opening FIFA Women's World Cup qualifier against Belarus next month. "I've been picked to go to Estonia in two weeks' time, which is a friendly leading up to the qualifiers. Hopefully I can impress there and get into the team for Belarus."
First, though, Hancock – when she finally gets to put her feet up – still has to come down from the high of competing at this Women's U19 EURO. "We've had good banter off the pitch, but when we've had to focus everyone's been really switched on – in training, in rest time, and on the pitch especially. I've enjoyed every minute – everyone was trying to represent the country really well, and hopefully I have."
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