After reaching the final four of the European U17 Championship at the weekend, Europe will now receive four places for the FIFA U17 World Cup, meaning that England qualify irrespective of the result of their semi-final against France next month.


The achievement marks an unprecedented period for England's women.

The senior side reached the World Cup in China for the first time in twelve years - bowing out at the Quarter Final stage to the USA - whilst the U19s reached their European Championship Final in Iceland, finally losing to Germany in extra-time. That performance saw Mo Marley's side qualify for the FIFA Women's U20 World Cup in Chile, to be contested this November.

"The seniors qualifying for China and the focus that created around the women's game was a watershed moment," Head Coach Hope Powell told

"Watching the tournament on television, the atmosphere at the grounds and the performances of our players, as well as the likes of Marta and Birgit Prinz, was undoubtedly inspiring and motivational for our younger international players.

"We've come a long way over the last ten years, and whilst a huge amount of credit has to go to the Coaching staff, including Mo Marley and Lois Fidler [this is Lois's first major tournament], I also have to acknowledge the commitment of players across the age groups, as they are constantly being challenged and stretched."

The success of the U17s means that between October and December, English interest will be focused on the U17 World Cup in New Zealand, followed almost immediately after by the U20 World Cup in Chile.

"During the past decade, the women's game has seen the introduction of Football Development Officers at County FAs and the strengthening of Centres of Excellence.

"For a lot of those people who aren't directly involved in working with one of the teams, they should take a great deal of pride too in the major contributory role they are playing in the advancement of the sport.

"The FA have continued to place ever bigger resources at our disposal and that too has been key to the progress we've been making at every level. No-one would say that we've 'made it', but our players are now challenging some of the undisputed superpowers of women's football in a way that would have been unthinkable in the early/mid nineties."

Ten of the first-ever FIFA U17 Women's World Cup participants are now known, with the European trio joining Korea DPR, Japan, Korea Republic, Colombia, Brazil, Paraguay and, of course, the Kiwi hosts in confirming their participation.

The European Champions will be crowned on 23 May and, within a week, all eyes will turn to Wellington, which was confirmed last Thursday as the venue for New Zealand 2008's Official Draw.