England Storm Into Last Eight With Eight of Their Own

by Dom Smith at the Amex

England turned to the sell-out Amex crowd and wryly asked: ‘What was it you wanted? A statement performance?’ Then they delivered one. The Norwegian defence took one hell of a beating. England are through to the quarters with a game to spare after this 8–0 demolition job, but frankly they deserve a spot in the semis for this performance alone.

As the first round of group games were ticked off, Norway, then Spain, then Germany, then France all made their intent this summer known with sizzling wins in their first matches. Each time the mind switched back to England, and how Austria had made them really work for their opening-day win at Old Trafford. The time is now for the Lionesses. This summer, on home soil, is the chance above all other chances to finally win their first major tournament. ‘Give us some goals!’, demanded the country. So England gave them the Women’s Euros’ biggest ever margin of victory.

Looking back now, it’s almost comical that Sarina Wiegman’s side needed a penalty to get off the mark in this Monday march to a mauling. Manchester United defender Maria Thorisdóttir should have known better than to haul Ellen White to the floor. Georgia Stanway takes up the responsibility from 12 yards these days and hammered home with conviction.

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It took just five minutes for England to turn the screw and turn Norway inside out from open play. Beth Mead played back to Lucy Bronze, continued her run, received Bronze’s eye-of-the-needle pass, checked back inside, and delivered across the goal-face so powerfully that all the ball could do was rebound off Lauren Hemp and into the net. The lineswoman flagged for offside, but it was nothing like. VAR rightly intervened to give England a cushion and Hemp a goal in her first tournament.

Ellen White stands below only Wayne Rooney in the all-time England goalscoring chart, but the rise of Alessia Russo as well as White’s seniority in this group have caused the first murmurs from fans that perhaps it’s time for Wiegman to drop her trusted striker.

Two minutes after shanking over from Mead’s cross, White ran free of the defence, bore down on goal, and slotted to goalkeeper Guro Pettersen’s left. Cue her iconic celebration, a roar of emotion to show her raw thirst for goals, and a spring in her step after the restart which nearly brought England’s fourth within 25 seconds.

It didn’t, but four minutes later her expert pressing did. She won the ball from a laborious Norway defence which, at half-time, compatriot and ex-Norway star John Arne Riise called “embarrassing”. He was right. White won the ball by the corner flag simply by yearning for it more, played back to Hemp, who crossed for Mead to head in her second.

Four minutes later Arsenal’s Mead had another goal. And what a goal. She twisted and jinked her way through a crowded box, making it look utterly devoid of life. Apart from her, it all but was. She slotted home into the corner intelligently. Mead looked a try-hard, embarrassing kids half her age at a summer fête. Except this was the Euros, and Mead was simply showing that she’s world-class.

Were England done? They turned to the exuberant crowd and answered wryly once more: ‘Nope’. Fran Kirby was kindly afforded the freedom of Brighton on the right. Her shot was headed wide, but ferocious White came diving in to volley home and move only one goal behind Rooney’s 53 for England.

In the first half of this mismatch that wasn’t supposed to be anything like, England had already equalled the all-time record win in the Women’s Euros — set by themselves in a 6–0 battering of Scotland in 2017.

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Wiegman told EnglandFootball.org after the win over Austria that she felt her players had been “very mature” in closing the game out. There was no chance of them repeating that; they simply didn’t need to. The Lionesses looked for goal number seven, and Wiegman put Alessia Russo, Alex Greenwood and Ella Toone on to help in that hunt. Russo will have been delighted that she was able to take her chance. She headed home Bronze’s cross, showing her prestige in the air.

It was 7–0. By the time you’d finished pinching yourself to check you weren’t dreaming, it was 8–0.

From Keira Walsh’s monstrous long shot, Pettersen could only parry right into Mead’s path. It is the sign of her immense confidence that she kept popping up, lurking, and poaching in the position of a centre-forward. Mead tickled home and jogged away to celebrate a fully merited hat-trick. She now leads the Golden Boot race with four from two games.

England’s biggest-ever defeat was an 8–0 defeat to Norway back in June 2000. Here, 22 years later, came their quite extraordinary revenge. England go bounding into the last eight with eight of their own.

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