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Practice makes perfect for England's Williams

Having scored a penalty, hit the bar with a free-kick and taken the corner that led to England's third against Denmark, Paige Williams's set pieces are a key weapon in her team's armoury.

Paige Williams by Swansea marina
Paige Williams by Swansea marina ©Sportsfile

Left-back Paige Williams was at the heart of everything England did in Sunday's 3-0 victory over Denmark that booked their progress to the UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship semis as Group A winners. Scorer of the game's opening goal from the penalty spot, she also fired a long-range free-kick onto the crossbar and took the corner that led to her side's third.

"I think set plays are probably one of my strengths, so wherever and whenever I can I'll always try and get on them," the Everton LFC defender told UEFA.com after a result that meant Mo Marley's team finished ahead of France on goal difference. "It's unbelievable: as a team it's been about three years that we've been preparing for this, every single year. We've had five clean sheets in our last five matches [qualifying included]. We've delivered on the day, which is what counts."

Rugged in defence, comfortable on the ball and a constant menace from set-piece situations, Williams was confidence personified on 34 minutes – with the game at Llanelli's Parc y Scarlets goalless – when she strode up to convert a spot kick awarded for a foul on striker Bethany Mead. "While we've been on camp we've been doing them [penalties] again and again after training and I haven't missed one, so I just set my mind to it. I knew what I was doing: I don't change my place, put my laces through it and hope for the best!

Paige Williams (2nd L) celebrates
Paige Williams (2nd L) celebrates©Sportsfile

"Free-kicks are something else I've been practising as well away from camp, and I was a bit unlucky one didn't go in," said the 18-year-old about the 78th-minute dead-ball strike that rattled the frame of Maria Christensen's goal. "I've been practising corners a lot too – it's all about getting the delivery right."

It has not gone unnoticed by England manager Marley, who added: "Different players bring different things to the game, with people having a particular role to play at a particular time – that's the message we've been trying to get across. But whatever the players have been asked to do, everybody's applied themselves and most importantly the players have believed in what we've asked them to do."

Application and belief are certainly key ingredients in the make-up of England's No6, whose side meet Group B runners-up Finland in the last four on Wednesday. "The way this team is going at the moment I'd be happy facing anyone," Williams said with conviction. "Honestly, the mood in the camp is so strong, we feel we can play anyone and come out with a result. We're playing Finland, but we'd take on anyone that was in our way."