England’s Lionesses came into the tournament hungry for success as they devoured Scotland 6-0 in Utrecht to open their Women’s Euro 2017 Championship challenge in scintillating fashion. Jodie Taylor completed a magnificent hat-trick with Ellen White, Jordan Nobbs and Toni Duggan all adding their names to the score sheet.
Mark Sampson’s Lionesses rose to prominence during the World Cup in Canada in 2015. Of course, every England team is touted as challengers for major international tournaments but with Mark Sampson’s team, they really do deserve that accolade. Speaking before the Scotland game Sampson stated confidently in an interview, “we not saying we’re the best team in the world, we want to be the best team in the world but we’re not yet. To get there we’ve got to start winning some major Championships… We’ll do our homework and focus on being at our best possible level to go out and win.” His confidence in the ability of his squad to give the very best that they can under pressure is not only evident with himself and his backroom team but Toni Duggan believes the players have a similar mentality when it comes to pressure, “if anyone can cope with the pressure and demands then it’s definitely us”.
So how have England gone from outsiders to Championship favourites? It stems largely from Sampson and the changes he has brought to England from a tactical and preparation point of view. Prior to the World Cup in Canada in 2015 he was influential in bringing Ben Young in as an assistant. Young had worked in rugby union with Saracens and England. His experience has been vital as the Lionesses have become 23% fitter than they were in August last year as their physical conditioning has reached higher levels. England couldn’t have been any more ready for Scotland.
It didn’t take long before Jodie Taylor opened the scoring after a through ball split the Scottish defence and allowing Taylor to run through and place the ball to the bottom right corner of the goal with Gemma Fay left stranded after just 10 minutes. A foul on Fran Kirby gave England’s Jordan Nobbs the opportunity to swing a cross into the penalty area. A cross that Scotland failed to deal with properly as Lucy Bronze’s shot was cleared off the line, only for Taylor to mop up and grab her second of the game. In the 32nd minute, a long range shot from Jill Scott hit the crossbar and caught Fay and her defence off guard as Ellen White beat everyone to the rebound to extend the Lionesses lead to 3 and essentially killing the game off. However, Sampson’s women weren’t finished yet.
Early in the second half, a long ball from the back was flicked on by White to Taylor who kept her composure and lobbed the Scottish goalkeeper to score the first hat-trick of the tournament and the first finals hat-trick in 20 years. Jordan Nobbs made it 5-0 when a cross from Kirby on the left was only cleared as far as the edge of the box. Nobbs had intelligently positioned herself there with this scenario in mind and she rose to the occasion fantastically well with great technique as she volleyed the ball into the back of the net. Nobbs then turned provider again as her corner was headed towards goal by captain Steph Houghton only for Toni Duggan to nip in and flick the ball past a despairing Fay in the Scotland goal.
It proved to be a baptism of fire for Scotland as they participated in their first Women’s Euro 2017 Championship game. England were thoroughly prepared and their quality shone all over the pitch as Scotland’s lack of experience at this level showing throughout. Not even Braveheart could have prevented England from winning as they send a strong message to their rivals.