Sarina Wiegmann slashed England’s European Championship credentials after they broke up 5-1 for the defending champions, the Netherlands, in the penultimate pre-tournament friendly. “I think there are many candidates for this tournament, and we are one of them,” she said sarcastically.
England were forced to come back from behind for the first time during Wegman’s tenure, but Lucy Bronze scored a response to a Laiki Martens goal in the first half before Sherida Spitz converted a penalty from outside the post, waking up the home side. An instant response from Beth Meade a minute and a half after the penalty put England ahead before Ella Ton and Lauren Hemp scored in quick succession for the rampant side and Meade added a late fifth goal.
Holland coach Mark Parsons said the 5-1 was “horrendous to hear” and that he bears responsibility for the massive defeat. “It was a very difficult evening,” he said. “The only thing we wanted to avoid by playing a big game and a big team so early in our preparations was this result. I feel very responsible.”
Wigman made five changes to the team that put three against Belgium last week, including choosing Beth England to lead the streak with record scorer Elaine White, absent with Covid.
It has been a long time since England faced Holland. Next, Wiegman was in the opposite dugout, leading her side to a 3-0 semi-final victory over England before going on to secure a home Euro victory for the Netherlands in the 2017 final.
With the Dutch coach now with England, England’s Parsons swapping the Portland Thorns for the winners, and England playing orange while the Dutch don the white jerseys, any fan eager to hit the next Stranger Things will have their appetites sated with a match apparently played at Upside Down.
If there were concerns about how well Fran Kirby will be ready for this summer’s tournament after the Chelsea midfielder’s tenure expired due to a fatigue issue, those issues were partially allayed in the first half against the 2019 World Cup runners-up. Kirby’s value in the 10th round was evident in the Within two minutes where she and Chloe Kelly meet neatly on the right.
Wiegman wanted more rigorous testing of the lionesses ahead of the Euro opener at Old Trafford on July 6, and was looking to get that in on Elland Road. Marie Earps did well by denying Linneth Berenstein from close range after the striker dumped the bronze.
Then the visiting team took the lead and the source was familiar. Martins turned England’s blistering defense in 2017 and her header close to the post from a corner kicked the two defenders stationary between her and goal and caught Erbs, who was slow to respond.
Kirby had some huge challenges, and in the 32nd minute, when the last of them came, the striker managed to hit the ball to her right as she descended, Bronze collected the ball and cut it towards the far post and veered inwards.
Shortly after the break, a Dutch VAR penalty check was taken after Alex Greenwood kicked Daniel van de Donk in the penalty area. The center back was booked for a sloppy challenge, but Spetses, who made her 200th appearance for her country, converted the resulting penalty from outside the post.
The response from England was immediate. Just 90 seconds after the penalty missed, England took the lead. Keira Walsh sent a superb pass into Hemp’s lane and the Manchester City striker walked clearly to the left before sending a cross pass that substitute Meade was rounded.
A series of changes for both sides saw Arsenal’s Vivian Miedema, the Netherlands’ record scorer, enter and Manchester United’s Ella Ton was given the chance to claim the 10th role in the air. Kirby.
The effect of the replacement was immediate. Rachel Daly, who was great all the time, fired Toone, who skated around Lynne Willems and swept the ball into the far corner.
Is England’s seat power this summer’s greatest weapon? “It’s definitely a weapon,” Wegman said. “I don’t know if that’s our biggest strength.”
Two minutes later England had four. A bronze cross from the right was hit from the base of the post by Toone before the ball was clearly passed but only to the distance of Hemp, whose shot was slammed into the corner. In the 90th minute, Meade continued her exciting brilliance with England, grabbing a loose ball after Alicia Rosso’s mistake.
It’s just a friendly match, but Parsons struggles to look beyond England. He said: “The quality of the players, the resources that the Premier League has provided and the work that the clubs are doing.” “It’s very hard to say they are not the candidates.”