His rivals filled the nets. England have shown they can too.

BRIGHTON, England – As the goals rained down, the first two in the first 15 minutes, then two more in quick succession, then two more, a...


BRIGHTON, England – As the goals rained down, the first two in the first 15 minutes, then two more in quick succession, then two more, all before half-time, it was hard not to think that England was sending a message.

His opening victory this summer European Women’s Football Championship had been satisfying enough, a solid but unspectacular first step towards a major prize he never won. But with the Lionesses scoring just one goal, England’s main rivals for the title were filling the net and raising the stakes.

Norway scored four goals in their first match. Spain and Germany soon followed suit. After France drew five against Italy on Sunday, maybe, just maybe, the tournament host country felt he had to show that he could.

England therefore scored eight.

In a tournament with contenders but little clarity in less than a week, England’s 8-0 loss to Norway on Monday night – delivered on a warm night in front of a delighted crowd at a seaside resort on the south coast of country – might have been the most surprising result to date.

Women’s football is changing rapidly in Europe, but its top teams’ fixtures remain so infrequent that it can sometimes be difficult to judge which teams are ahead of the pack. A great player does not make a great team. A great team does not necessarily need a great player. And with greatest power collisions few and far between – the last Euro was in 2017, an eternity in the continued evolution of women’s football on the continent – ​​data is still hard to come by. You can only learn so much from a lopsided victory, after all. A 20-0 victory reveals even less.

Spain arrived at this tournament as one of the favorites, but soon saw their hopes dashed by the loss of Alexia Putellas, the world player of the year, to a knee injury. France left two of their best players at home. Germany brought depth but not brand stars.

England v Norway was meant to be something else: a true test of strong teams, a rare encounter of equals. And then it wasn’t.

“Of course everyone is devastated by our appearance tonight,” Norway coach Martin Sjogren told reporters after the game. “I feel really, really bad for the good of the players, to be out there and to be beaten by England, 8-0, in a game that we’ve been looking forward to for some time.

“We had a good feeling before the game. We thought we had a good plan and opened the game as planned. I think we played the first 10 minutes well. But then the last 80, 85 minutes were more or less awful to be honest.

Georgia Stanway opened the scoring in the 12th minute, converting a penalty after Ellen White was brought down in the penalty area. Three minutes later, Lauren Hemp made it two, turning a Beth Mead cross. Lenses were blurry after that. White, after undressing a defender, entered alone for the first time. Mead got his first, in the 34th minute, on a header, and his second, in the 38th, with some neat footwork from close quarters.

White had the crowd and her teammates, holding their heads in their hands as she delivered her second, and England’s sixth, with a slippery finish at the far post in the 41st minute. But England weren’t finished: Alessia Russo came on for White in the 57th minute and nine minutes later was also on the scoresheet.

Norway went to a back five after that, but it didn’t matter. By the time England secured No.8, with Mead completing his hat-trick on a rebound, the Norwegians had called it a night: Ada Hegerberg, a dominant striker who never felt the goal, and playmaker Caroline Graham Hansen had already been retired, drawn to live to fight another day. Guro Reiten, a crafty winger, left soon after.

“We made it a bit too easy for them,” Sjogren said, “by losing the ball in dangerous places. We made some very, very serious mistakes.

It was not the result both teams were expecting. The two had opened the tournament as they wanted: England opened with a win over Austria in front of nearly 69,000 fans, the biggest crowd to ever see a Women’s Euro game, and Norway made his debut a day later with a 4-1 game against the North. Ireland. Like England’s one-goal victory, Norway’s wider margin failed to show just how dominant the winners had been.

The clash offered a rarity in this tournament: a meeting of equally considered teams, teams that had traded wins in recent encounters, which seemed like a good game.

England have knocked out Norway at the last two World Cups, including a 3-0 win in the 2019 quarter-finals in France. But it was a very different Norway: talented, yes, but lacking predatory Hegerberg, who quit his national team for several years in protest at what she saw as second-class treatment by the country’s football federation.

A lengthy layoff following a knee injury prompted a change of heart earlier this year, and her return has brought about a change in expectations for both her and her country.

These remain, beaten as they are. But Monday was England night, start to finish after finish after finish.

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Newsrust - US Top News: His rivals filled the nets. England have shown they can too.
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