BRIGHTON, England — Because the goals rained in, first two in the primary quarter-hour, then two more in quick succession, then two more on top of those, all before halftime, it was hard to not think England was sending a message.
Its opening victory at this summer’s European women’s soccer championship had been satisfying enough, a solid if unspectacular first step toward a serious prize it has never won. But while the Lionesses had mustered only a single goal, England’s top rivals for the title were filling nets, and raising the stakes.
Norway scored 4 goals in its first match. Spain and Germany quickly did the identical. After France fired five past Italy on Sunday, perhaps, just perhaps, the tournament’s host country felt it needed to indicate it was able to the identical.
So England scored eight.
In a tournament boasting contenders but little clarity lower than per week in, England’s 8-0 thrashing of Norway on Monday night — delivered on a warm night in front of a delighted crowd in a resort town on the country’s southern coast — may need been essentially the most surprising result yet.
Women’s soccer is changing quickly in Europe, however the meetings of its best teams remain so infrequent that it may sometimes be hard to evaluate just which teams are pulling ahead of the pack. An amazing player doesn’t make an ideal team. An amazing team doesn’t necessarily need an ideal player. And with collisions of the highest powers few and much between — the last Euros was in 2017, an eternity in the continued evolution of ladies’s soccer on the continent — data continues to be hard to come back by. One can learn only a lot from a lopsided win, in spite of everything. A 20-0 victory reveals even less.
Spain arrived at this tournament as considered one of the favorites but quickly saw its hopes shaken by the lack of Alexia Putellas, the world player of the yr, to a knee injury. France left two of its best players at home. Germany brought depth but not brand-name stars.
England vs. Norway was alleged to be something else altogether: a real test of powerful teams, a rare meeting of equals. After which it wasn’t.
Georgia Stanway opened the scoring within the twelfth minute, converting a penalty after Ellen White was pulled down within the 18-yard box. Three minutes later, Lauren Hemp made it two, turning in a cross from Beth Mead. The goals were a blur after that. White, after stripping a defender, strolled in alone for her first. Mead got her first, within the thirty fourth minute, on a header, and her second, within the thirty eighth, with some neat footwork in close quarters.
White had the group, and her teammates, holding their heads of their hands when she delivered her second, and England’s sixth, with a sliding finish on the back post within the forty first minute. But England wasn’t done: Alessia Russo replaced White within the 57th minute and nine minutes later she was on the rating sheet, too.
Norway went to a back five after that, but it surely hardly mattered. By the point England got No. 8, with Mead completing her hat trick off a rebound, the Norwegians had called it an evening: Ada Hegerberg, a dominant striker who never got a sniff of the goal, and the playmaker Caroline Graham Hansen had already been withdrawn, pulled to live to fight one other day. Guro Reiten, a crafty wing, left soon afterward.
It was hardly the result either team had expected. Each had opened the tournament just as they wanted: England kicking off with a win over Austria in front of nearly 69,000 fans, the most important crowd ever to see a women’s Euros match, and Norway debuting a day later with a 4-1 romp over Northern Ireland. Like England’s one-goal win, Norway’s wider margin in some way did not convey just how dominant the victors had been.
The matchup offered a rarity on this tournament: a gathering of equally regarded sides, teams that had traded wins in recent meetings, that seemed match.
England has eliminated Norway from the past two World Cups, including a 3-0 victory within the 2019 quarterfinals in France. But that was a really different Norway: talented, yes, but missing the predatory Hegerberg, who left her national team for several years to protest what she considered second-class treatment by the country’s soccer federation.
A protracted layoff from a knee injury produced a change of heart earlier this yr, and her return has brought a change in expectations each for her and her country.
Those remain, battered as they’re. But Monday was England’s night, from start to complete after finish after finish.