The Lionesses won against Norway in the Women’s World Cup - and 7.6m watched England reach the World Cup semi-final on the BBC.
England is through to the semi-finals of the World Cup and they did it in style. They dominated over the Norwegian side and trumped them 3-0.
England’s impressive win against Norway last night set a new peak UK TV viewing record for women’s football after 7.6m and 38.6% share of available audience tuned in to see the Lionesses reach the World Cup semi-final.
The stadium in Le Havre was just a short ferry ride from the English coast and the English fans made themselves known. There was a Macarena at half time, supporters who had to be back at Gatwick for work at 3am, but most importantly they sang, played their instruments and even David Beckham was getting into the joviality.
England were favourites going into the match. They’re ranked third in the world compared with Norway’s 12th place. Norway isn’t without their superstars however, with Ada Hegerberg, the first winner of the Ballon d’Or Féminin a frequent in the side.
Except Hegerberg has refused to play in this World Cup. She had the potential to be the difference in tonight’s match (but if you looked at England’s defence, you could easily argue otherwise), but out of principle didn’t join the team.
She wants the same respect that the male football team in Norway command. She said that “that I was an object in a big piece where we weren’t considered as professional as we should’ve been”.
As for England, there were a few doubts before the game. Captain Steph Houghton picked up an injury in the dying seconds of the previous game against Cameroon. Additionally, a virus swept through the team affecting some of the players.
This didn’t seem to phase coach Phil Neville, with him stating before the match that his players were 100% fit and able to carry out their duties (and carry out their duties they did).
Norway has previous form though; they’d progressed to the semi-finals four times out of the five they have made it to the quarter-finals, whereas England has only progressed from the quarter-finals once (in 2015, when they beat Canada).
The match: decoded
The game began with a bang with England on the attack immediately. It was evident they were going to go for the win from the onset. Within the first minute, they should have been awarded a corner however it wasn’t given. But they kept pressing on.
And they were quickly rewarded.
Right back Lucy Bronze was able to counter-attack pressing down the wing. She crossed it into the box, and our hearts leapt when it passed Ellen White only for her to miskick it.
Instead, the ball fell at the feet of Jill Scott and she sent it straight to the back of the net. Maybe White played the perfect dummy? Scott’s goal scored at two minutes and seven seconds is the fastest scored at the tournament so far (and England’s quickest World Cup goal ever).
England continued to attack; Nikita Parris was consistently being given too much space on the right-hand side, and she maximised this. Working with Bronze, they caused chaos – defenders didn’t know how to handle them.
Norway had opportunities early on, but they never looked dangerous. If they did, the defence tidied up quickly and got the ball forward again quickly.
Before the half-hour mark, it was almost two when Parris crossed to White. She hit it on the volley; a quality strike but it went straight to the far post. Most of the stadium assumed it was going in. England was still pressing on and in the 40th minute, they were able to.
Again, Bronze and Parris were able to link up, after a pass from Houghton. Parris was able to find White in the box, and she tapped it into the goal. It was a true team goal; exceptional play all around.
As the half time whistle blew, the team walked off high fiving the rest of the squad on their way to the dressing room. They’d had an incredible first half with the excitement and tempo that comes with a World Cup quarterfinal.
Phil Neville was relentless in his half time interview saying he still wanted “ruthlessness in the final third.”
“World Cup quarter-finals are hard, nobody hands it to you on a plate. Norway will give it a good go.”
Norway did start the second half well, attacking strongly but they were still no match with Houghton. Norway had to go for it, but it meant leaving more gaps than before.
Before the hour mark, Bronze struck England’s third. She’d been one of the best players in the game so far and she deserved to be on the scoresheet. Beth Mead, who had come on minutes earlier passed across the edge of the box and Bronze wasted no time. She got so much power behind it and the goalkeeper didn’t stand a chance.
There were some sloppy moments and silly mistakes that crept in during both halves. Neville will be disappointed with that and will be keen to make sure this isn’t happening for the semi.
It could have been four for England when Houghton was brought down by with a nudge to the back by Maria Thorisdottir in the box. The referee wasted no time in pointing to the penalty spot and Parris stepped up.
But it wasn’t to be. Just like the England v Argentina game, her strike went straight into the hands of the keeper. She seems to be thinking too much before she strikes the ball.
England played incredibly well. Towards the end of the game, the Norwegians were working hard to make sure the score line didn’t look any worse for them. England will play the winner of tomorrow’s semi-final between France and the USA (which should be a cracker of a match) on Tuesday in Lyon and they go in looking like they could beat anyone.
Dion Dublin summed it up perfectly in his post-match analysis when he said Norway was a “top team we made look average.” Here’s hoping the Lionesses can make another team look relatively average next week.