England at the women’s European Football Championship: sensation against Norway

AWhen the referee blew the whistle, the Norwegian players couldn’t get into the dressing room fast enough. Let’s go, let’s get out of here. The English women meandered leisurely towards the players’ tunnel, high fives and the substitutes formed an impromptu welcoming committee on the sidelines. The bizarre thing about it: The referee’s whistle didn’t end the game, just the first half. But with England already leading by a whopping 6-0 – and in front of more than 28,000 mostly English fans in the sold-out stadium in Brighton – the players didn’t quite know how to behave in this situation.

England slowed down in the second half, coach Sarina Wiegman gradually substituted on rested players, sparing their core staff, and yet her side maintained control of the game throughout and even scored two more goals to make it 8-0 after. A sensation! For context, Norway traveled to the European Championships as one of the favorites, having won the World Cup, the Olympics and twice the European Championship in the past.

They are 11th in the FIFA World Rankings, just three places below England. The group game against Norway was therefore considered the ultimate endurance test for the English team, which also calculates its chances of winning the title. But the endurance test turned into a football festival that ended with a new tournament record: Never before had a team scored eight goals in a game at a women’s or men’s European Championship.

And Norway were lucky not to have conceded nine or even ten goals. The chances were there as England’s forwards ruthlessly exploited the weakness of the opposition’s defence. Three players in Norway’s back four may have played for professional clubs in England’s Women’s Super League but seemed overwhelmed here. England’s tried and tested moves – like vertical passes to the baseline and then crossing the ball from there – worked time and time again.

Ada Hegerberg remains virtually invisible

At the 2019 World Cup, England depended on goals from the experienced Ellen White, who also scored twice against Norway. Today, the “Lionesses” have a number of players who can score goals. Right winger Beth Mead was in top form against Norway, scoring three goals. She had previously scored for England in the 1-0 win against Austria in the opening game.

On the other side of the field, England’s defense, captained by Leah Williamson, looked relaxed against the normally feared Norwegian attack. Norway’s centre-forward Ada Hegerberg won the Champions League with Olympique Lyon last season and is one of the biggest stars in women’s football.

No chance: Beth Mead is at her goal to make it 5-0

Image: dpa

But when she was substituted after 75 minutes in Brighton, many spectators at the stadium must have really noticed her for the first time. However, she hardly ever had the opportunity to put herself in the limelight, as her team only had a measly 36 percent of ball possession. England goalkeeper Mary Earps was almost never seriously challenged.

No more chance of being low-key

England are confirmed as Group A winners ahead of Friday’s final group game against Northern Ireland. In the quarter-finals on Wednesday next week they meet the runners-up in Group B, which also includes Germany. Expectations in the country were already high before the Norway game, but after this show of force, coach Wiegman will no longer be able to capture them even with the most artistic means of low-level stacking.

Jonas Eidevall, Arsenal women’s team coach, said as a television pundit at BBC broadcaster that England had literally torn Norway apart: “They were two or three notches above Norway. I was expecting an even game but that was really impressive from England.”

Wiegman led the Netherlands national team to the 2017 European Championship and to the final of the 2019 World Cup. She is considered obsessed with detail and a perfectionist, earlier companions describe her as a workaholic. During the first half against Norway she was seen meticulously jotting down notes in a book. She shared her thoughts afterwards as she watched her team score a goal every few minutes.

“To be honest, I thought, what’s going on here? I think I can be very satisfied tonight.” Her job will now be to lead the team from the frenzy back to routine and to keep the squad focused. “It’s three points if you win 1-0 or 8-0,” she said. “We haven’t won anything yet. We keep our feet on the ground.”



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