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The England triumph of 2009 that will fire their Women’s World Cup hopes

Photograph: Andrei Liankevich/EPA

Duggan was 17, it was her birthday, and she had scored the opener in the 2009 Under-19 European Championship final against Sweden in Belarus. Jordan Nobbs added a second.

Four of the side travelling to France lifted the trophy in Belarus. As well as Bronze and Duggan there is Jade Moore and Demi Stokes, and there would have been more but for injuries to Izzy Christiansen and Nobbs. Gemma Bonner, another member of Mo Marley’s squad 10 years ago, is likely on standby.

If there is a feeling that the future of the England men’s team is bright after the successes of the under-17s, under-19s and under-20s two years ago, then in the women’s game there is the feeling the future is now. The 2009 players, who form a steely core in Phil Neville’s 23, are in their prime and have experienced winning a tournament in a England shirt.

“I think one of the biggest things we took away from that was actually when you are successful and you win something it’s something you want to go on and do again – it’s kind of addictive,” says Moore, a Reading midfielder. “The idea of being that successful again drives the motivation.”

Photograph: Andrei Liankevich/EPA

Playing with each other through the years has been hugely beneficial. “We had been together for quite some years and drip-fed players in and out,” says Moore. “But the core of that group had been together for many, many years. We had a fluidity in the way that we played and we trusted everyone. The togetherness, though, outshone everything else.”

Bronze, the Lyon right-back who came up against Barcelona’s Duggan in the recent Champions League final, agrees. “It’s nice that we’ve got that camaraderie,” she says. “With Toni, in the Champions League final, I’ve known her since we were 16, for over 10 years, and to see her upset? It breaks my heart. You’ve got those relationships because you’ve gone through so much together where we want each other to do well.”

Duggan believes it has cultivated respect. “You go through a lot together; with people’s families, changing clubs, the ups and downs in life, and you really respect people for that. That’s not just the core that went to Belarus. I’ve know Ellen White since we were 13 years old – I can say the same for probably 80% of this team. That goes a long way on the pitch when you really need to pull together and you’re in tough times.”

Bronze attributes her winning mentality to being a part of that generation. “We’ve always said the younger generation has this crazy winning mentality. Not only did we win that but we made the final the following year, we made the semi‑final of a World Cup at under‑17s … I think that’s been brought through now.

“You look at maybe not senior international level but senior domestic level, and every single one of those players probably has a trophy now in some way, shape or form and every single one of those players is hunting for trophies.

Photograph: Luke Walker/Getty Images

“We’ve got so many good teams with so many good players and now most of the England players have played in cup finals, they’ve been top of the league, they play in the Champions League. We’ve got that success running through our veins now at England.”

Marley, the second woman in England to have been awarded a Uefa Pro Licence (after Hope Powell), is credited with much of the patient nurturing of players through the system. The under-19 manager for 16 years, she stepped into the breach for the senior team on an interim basis after Mark Sampson was fired. Some called for her to get the job full-time, others said she did not want it. Regardless, she has taken charge of the Under-21s since Neville’s appointment and is feeding him players. Marley is known for a holistic approach. She works with players, parents, clubs and coaches to ensure they have the right work‑school-life balance.

The 2009 team continue to share the memories of that win with her. “We still speak about it now,” says Duggan. “A couple of years later we were still having a reunion to celebrate it – we seriously were. Every time we see Mo Marley we mention it to her because we achieved something special together and it’s something we’ll never forget.”

“We showed in the Netherlands [at Euro 2017] that it wasn’t a one‑off. Unfortunately we couldn’t get over the line – we got to the semi‑finals – but it’s coming and we know it’s coming, it’s just a case of when.”

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