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Day 7: Sjögren just does nothing
If you have been living under a rock the past 12 hours, you might have missed that England beat Norway 8-0. The result guaranteed England will finish top of the group, meaning their quarter-final will be against whoever comes second in Group B. There were goals from Georgia Stanway, Lauren Hemp, Ellen White (twice), Alessia Russo, and of course, Beth Mead’s hattrick. It was also the record win for any team at a European Championship, men or women.
It is worth reiterating that this is not an example of a lopsided women’s football score. Norway are ranked 11th in the world, play the all-time Women’s Champions League top scorer up front and have two of the best wingers in women’s football in Guro Reiten and Caroline Graham Hansen. Recent meetings between England and Norway have been even-handed. England have won when it mattered, knocking Norway out of the 2015 and 2019 World Cup but Norway have come out on top in friendly fixtures between those tournament games.
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Instead last night was an example of when a team has clearly made a monumental error in how they want to set up and then decides to do absolutely nothing about it. Which also turned into a great lesson in why it is important to have a defensive strategy. Watching the game, it was hard not to feel shocked at the contrast to how England played against Austria. This was the same starting XI who had toiled to a controlled 1-0 win at Old Trafford, where admittedly they spurned chances to inflate the scoreline slightly.
Here, however, it was like the game played out on a ‘by numbers’ approach as to how to get at Norway. Julie Blakstad has long been earmarked as a player who seemed susceptible to pressure given that she is sort of but not really a fullback and whilst extremely talented, clearly better suited further up the field. She was unable to keep control of Beth Mead but right now who can? In fact, Blakstad seems to have been slightly unfairly singled out in criticism of this Norway team. Beth Mead was able to put plenty of crosses in but Maren Mjelde, Maria Thorisdottir and Tuva Hansen did little to stop Lauren Hemp and Ellen White from sauntering into the penalty area to try and get on the end of them.
Equally Ingrid Engen and Vilde Boe Risa in the Norway midfield seemed chronically unable to do basically anything at all. Keira Walsh is a talented midfielder (and I’ve always felt that England succeeding in this tournament would rely on her playing at her best) but she is astronomically better when she is given literally as long as she wants to pick out a pass. Now that might be a pressing role you want to hand to Caroline Graham Hansen, but if so, your midfielders then at least need to offer some kind of support to your defence. Instead of just sort of… existing. There were sunbathers on Brighton beach yesterday who were more active.
I have watched both teams I do support (don’t think of the Champions League final, don’t think of the Champions League final) and teams I do not support get trounced during football games. But I’m not sure I have ever seen a manager do so little to try and impact a game where his side have fallen to pieces. Let alone one where goal difference could actually matter.
Things Martin Sjögren could have done? Move Caroline Graham Hansen to the right to try to play longer balls to her. Bring on Frida Maanum at half time and play three in midfield. Push Maren Mjelde out to right back to try and stem some of the runs in to the penalty area.
Things Martin Sjögren did do? Sort of shuffle the defence to make it a back five at half-time.
Last night, England were magnificent. Confident, ruthless, demanding. An opposition coach cannot control that. But to watch your side wilt in the South Coast heat and leave them to fend for themselves? Give it to Ada Hegerberg until the end of the tournament tbh.