Surprise reigned as Paige Williams took stock of England's advance to the final but, with growing belief and an unbreached back line, she is confident of a fairy-tale ending on Saturday.
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"Unbelievable," Paige Williams exclaimed as she came off the pitch following England's 4-0 demolition of Finland in the semi-finals. It was a sense she would convey several times during a short interview and, with growing belief and an unwavering faith in her coaching staff, the left-back is targeting a fairy-tale end to her fortnight in Wales.
Williams has been a cornerstone of England's advance. Strong at the back, she is also a real presence going forwards, foraging up both wings, passing short or going long as coach Mo Marley seeks to evolve and revolve the approach. The 18-year-old also provides an assured left foot at set pieces, as her penalty conversion against Finland – her second in as many matches – attests.
"In the first half I was more lively but then Finland switched on to the long ball over the top so we just had to vary our game," said the Everton LFC defender. "When we went into feet it was effective as well so I'm quite happy with my performance. Physically we were stronger, technically we were better and we just wanted it more in the end. I think Finland let their heads go down a bit once we'd scored – you've got to go right to the end."
England certainly are, dusting themselves off after a hard-fought goalless draw with France to record ever more impressive results, 3-0 wins against Wales and Denmark preceding the Finland triumph. "I think once we believed we could get out of the group then it was like, 'we can go all the way here,'" said Williams. "It's just been drilled into everyone that we can actually go all the way and hopefully that's what we'll do."
In 2009 England won the UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship without conceding and they remain on course to repeat that – an "unbelievable" feat, says Williams. France will present a real test, though, having hit the woodwork twice and had a spot kick saved when the sides met on the first day of these finals. England's No6 is confident momentum and an adhered-to strategy will see them home.
Not that she is complacent: Marley, for one, would not allow it. "Mo just gives us words of wisdom every single game. She drills into us that every game is going to be a tough game. Then, when we do go 1-0 up, that's when we seem to get a few more goals – it's just belief within the team that does it for us."
Williams and her team-mates will have an extra dose of motivation on Saturday as club-mates and family arrive en masse at Llanelli's Parc y Scarlets. "It'll be the first time they've seen me play for England and it's going to be a final," she added. "We can't believe we're here; it's just mad."