1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Opinion: Most impressive England display I've seen

Matt Pearson Brighton
July 11, 2022

DW's Matt Pearson has been watching England teams, mostly the men, play football for more than 30 years. The women's team’s 8-0 win over Norway at Euro 2022 was, in many respects, more significant than any before.

Beth Mead and Alessia Russo celebrate a win for England over Norway
Beth Mead and Alessia Russo scored four between them as England demolished Norway to top Group AImage: ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP

It started like so many group games do. Cagey, tentative, struggling to live up to the buildup and atmosphere. A little like Wednesday night’s opener, in fact.

Then suddenly, a soft penalty bought by Ellen White and cashed in joyfully by Georgia Stanway started something I’ve never experienced in decades of watching England; a sheer, slick, sublime, total demolition of a team considered among the tournament favorites. And qualification for the quarterfinals in the bargain.

It was incisive, clinical and sublime. Beth Mead, Fran Kirby and Lauren Hemp flitted purposefully, leaving a trail of defenders lunging at the spaces recently vacated by their shadows. Ellen White snapped into tackles, won every header and gave the feeling that every time she moved, she’d score.

DW's Matt Pearson
DW's Matt Pearson

They all did. Less than half an hour after Stanway’s opener, White made it six with her second. Mead also had two, while Hemp had also got in on the act. Norway were lucky it was only six. And those with an eye on history, must’ve cast minds back 21 years to England’s greatest ever loss, 8-0 to Norway in 2001.

As the sellout crowd at the AMEX stadium belted out ‘Football’s Coming Home’, a song first released for the men’s Euros in 1996, it became clear that history was being made right here. England are the first team to score eight in this tournament.

Shades of Euro ‘96

Had you asked me before this one which England game had been the most impressive I've seen, I would’ve said the 4-1 win over the Netherlands in Euro 96. It was on home soil, English football’s reputation was changing for the better and, watching in my childhood home a few miles from Brighton, it felt like something had changed.

This time I was fortunate to be in the stadium reporting on the game. It felt surreal that it was so thoroughly convincing, that it was in Brighton and even that the stadium, and my phone, was buzzing with people totally captivated by a women’s match.

That would have been unthinkable to me, and the rest of the country, in 1996 but it’s not now. There’s a feeling that if this tournament is to really have the legacy its organizers crave, then the hosts need to perform. There’s some truth in that. And they’re doing their bit.

This display, capped off by a second half header from Alessia Russo and Mead’s third, had made even those with a passing interest take notice. It was one forged by the internationals now sat in the press box, the pioneers pictured in the museum exhibit in the city center, the fans who were watching in 2001 and the countless thousands who worked in the background to bring the sport to this point.

A match with meaning

In short, it was as seismic as it was sensational. The kind of game to win over those on the fence.

Norway's defenders hang their heads after conceding to England
Norway were unable to cope with England's attacking movementImage: Terje Pedersen/NTB/IMAGO

For all the clear progress that’s been demonstrated in this tournament already, there’s plenty left to do. England’s 20-0 win over Latvia last November was one of a number of one-sided results that highlight the unevenness of a sport still making its way after bans, unequal treatment and chauvinism. But, make no mistake, this was not a walkover against minnows. This was over a side led by Ada Hegerberg with two more European titles than England.

That title count might change come July 31. But the final is a long way away. As the whistle blew, nearly 30,000 fans erupted in joy for the ninth time of a warm summer’s evening. For those like me, whose formative years were spent watching men’s football, the tone is different, though no less. It means exactly the same. And it’s going nowhere.