Rampant, ruthless and breaking records. The Lionesses reached the quarter-finals of the Euros with an 8-0 demolition of Norway that left everyone in the sold-out, cauldron-like Amex Stadium in Brighton wondering what the hell they were witnessing.
England had stuttered a bit under pressure in their 1-0 loss to Austria in Group A at Old Trafford, but against a potentially powerful Norway they became the first side to score seven, then eight, in a single match at a Euro (mens or women). The crowd reveled in it, aware that they were watching something special.
Helped by Beth Mead’s hat-trick and Ellen White’s brace, England top the group with a game to play, with their head-to-head wins over Austria and Norway ensuring that even if they drop three points against Northern Ireland on Friday, they lead the pack.
The first goal was lucky, White was held off, but fell to the grass slightly theatrically after being fouled in the build-up. Up reinforced Georgia Stanway, who mirrored his emphatic penalty against Switzerland in England’s final warm-up game, hammering high from the right of Guro Pettersen.
It was the start England needed. Norway were forced to move on, further exposing a weak centre-back pairing of Chelsea’s Maren Mjelde, who hasn’t recovered in a long time from an ACL injury, and Manchester’s Maria Thorisdottir United, who were disappointed in their first season in Manchester after joining Chelsea.
Three minutes into Stanway’s penalty and Manchester City striker Lauren Hemp had the ball in the net again. He was flagged offside but the decision was overturned by VAR, with Hemp and White onside.
The Norwegian players were rattled and England went wild, steamrolling through the midfield again and again. There had been nerves before kick-off in the sweltering heat north of Brighton. Norway have an attacking line that any team in the world would love to have, but if they don’t have the ball they can’t score.
Sarina Wiegman had said before kick-off that England had “a plan in possession and out of possession like we always do, then go out and play. I think it’s going to be a very exciting game.
The plan should they lose possession was clear, Millie Bright stuck to record Champions League goalscorer Ada Hegerberg, matching her physical presence, while the terrier-like hustle of Fran Kirby and Stanway won possession repeatedly and limited service to the Norwegian. trio of Hegerberg, Chelsea’s Guro Reiten and Barcelona’s Caroline Graham Hansen.
Many expected Wiegman to make a change for the game against Norway, with captain Leah Williamson possibly moved into the middle and Alex Greenwood back alongside Bright in the center of the England defense to add a layer additional protection against Norway. However, that would have meant sacrificing one of Stanway or Kirby, who excelled against Austria at Old Trafford. Instead, there was no change to the starting XI, with the manager opting to stick with the formula that relieved them under the pressure of the opener in front of a crowd of 68,000.
On the half-hour it was three, as White robbed Thorisdottir, who had taken a bad touch, before moving forward and coolly past Pettersen.
If the third had the crowd purring, the fourth had people exclaiming at the madness they were watching. There was more chaos at the back for Norway, as Mjelde raced to cover Thorisdottir but was tipped off the ball by White, who sent it back to Hemp, and the City striker kicked in a center for Mead to enter the net with a header.
Four minutes later and England’s fifth was perhaps their finest. Mead slalomed into the box from the right, danced past Manchester City’s Julie Blakstad, took Thorisdottir on the wrong foot and fired low past Pettersen into the far corner.
The goal that put England past the five goals France scored against Italy in the first half was as quick as any. Stanway and Kirby combined again, and the latter’s curved cross to the back post was returned by White.
Many have spoken of England’s defensive solidity under Wiegman, but there is a fire and balance in attack that is also new. At the World Cup in 2019, England relied too much on White’s goalscoring and much of England’s most positive play came on the right thanks to Lucy Bronze and Nikita Parris – with , ironically, the team’s most complete performance against Norway in the last 16. , the threat is spread across the pitch, with Mead on the right and Hemp on the left, England are virtually unplayable.
That depth extends down to the bench and with Ella Toone, Alessia Russo and Greenwood around the hour mark, England maintained their fluidity, albeit with a bit of a loose foot, Russo adding the seventh from a looping bronze cross less than 10 minutes after entering the fray.
Mead scored a hat-trick and his fourth goal of the tournament with nine minutes of regulation time remaining, leaping on Pettersen’s parried shot to exploit.
It was a statement score, a statement performance and a display that will make England’s odds shorten.