by Darrell Allen (16/7/22)
Above: England see a chance go narrowly wide against Northern Ireland at Southampton last night. Photo: Lionesses.
There was talk in the build-up to this Group A finale against Northern Ireland about how many changes Sarina Wiegman would make to her team. Wiegman, of course, was struck down herself with Covid 19 but the team remain unchanged.
This shows the single-minded focus that the Lionesses are approaching this tournament with. This game in all seriousness meant very little. England had won the group. Northern Ireland were out there was nothing on this match other than the enhanced pride that comes when two UK nations meet, as well as continuing confidence and momentum.
An unchanged lineup for a game of this nature shows England’s intentions and the respect Wiegman has for the tournament and opposition.
Beth Mead would have been one of many who were delighted by this and she responded by adding the second of the five scored on the night in her quest for the golden boot.
As you would expect from a Northern Ireland side strong in character and determination, Kenny Shiels’ side put up a brave fight all evening but England and their class saw them claim a comfortable win.
With Wiegman struck down with Covid, it was down to her assistant Arjan Veurink, the former FC Twente women’s and Netherlands assistant to take charge of affairs at St Mary’s on Friday night.
The unchanged team responded in spectacular fashion with another masterclass in goalscoring and finishing off an opponent. Veurink certainly enjoyed the evening.
Kirby Kicks Things off
To the credit of Northern Ireland, they were superb in the opening phases and it wasn’t until the 41st minute that their brave resistance was broken.
It required something special from a special player. That person was Fran Kirby who got this particular night off the mark.
Just as the game looked like it was heading to a goalless first half, a magic moment from Fran Kirby came.
The ball bounced to the Chelsea star on the edge of the box and she curled a shot brilliantly into the top right corner.
Kirby has well and truly come to this Euros party and that’s another incredible prospect as we head into the knock-out phase. Let’s not forget that this is a player who went into the tournament with very little recent game time due to a debilitating illness.
The Perfect Group A
Well done England, that’s the group phase of a high-pressure home Euros complete with relative ease.
The most crucial part was negotiating the opening night against Austria in front of a huge crowd without a slip-up. They did that thanks to a Beth Mead goal; things have been a breeze ever since.
The 8-0 demolition of Norway in the second game made the rest of Europe open their eyes to what England could deliver this summer if they weren’t aware already.
With last night’s win maintaining a 100% record both winning and continuing the team’s run of clean sheets in addition to the fact that Beth Mead has already scored five goals, the prospect of England taking the trophy and Mead taking the golden boot are very possible.
Admittedly, there are far tougher challenges ahead, but strap yourselves in for a special couple of weeks ahead.
Denmark Or Spain
Next up will be a return to the American Express Community Stadium in Brighton and that will be against Denmark or Spain. They face off this evening at The Brentford Community Stadium.
A win for Denmark means they will face England but any points for Spain will mean it is they who will face the Lionesses on the South Coast on Wednesday night.
Teams: NORTHERN IRELAND (5-4-1): Burns, McKenna, Nelson, Robson, Vance, Holloway, Wade, Rafferty, Callaghan, McGuiness, Furness. Subs: Hutton, Mc Carron, Flaherty, Burrows, Caldwell, McDaniel, Wilson, Andrews, McGuinness, Magee, Turner.
ENGLAND (4-2-3-1): Earps, Bronze, Bright, Williamson, Daly, Walsh, Stanway, Kirby, Mead, Hemp, White. Subs: Greenwood, Carter, Hampton, Scott, Parris, Kelly, England, Toone, Roebuck, Wubben-Moy, Russell.
Scorers: Kirby 40′. Mead 44′. Russo 48′, 53′, Burrows (OG) 76′.
Referee: Esther Staubil.