England’s 8-0 Euros win over Norway, by those who lived it: ‘It was euphoria’


One Monday on a balmy July evening in Brighton, history was made.

England beat Norway, a side including iconic names, 8-0. It is the biggest margin of victory in the men’s and women’s European Championships, ever.

Sarina Wiegman’s side turned Norway’s defence inside-out in a cut-throat performance. England humiliated their opponents.

Everyone knew this middle game of the three would decide the winner of Group A, but no one predicted this.

Sweet Caroline, Will Grigg’s On Fire and Three Lions rang around the Amex Stadium, creating a deafening block of noise. It was a blur of magic that deserves to be preserved in time.

“‘What’s going on here?’. That was going through my mind,” said Wiegman after the game.

Well, let’s relive it.

This is the story of a match that will go down in history, told to The Athletic by people who were on the pitch, in the dugout and in the stands.

The game was evenly poised in the first half with Norway’s Ada Hegerberg, Caroline Graham Hansen and Guro Reiten applying early pressure. It was England’s Ellen White, however, who drew the foul from Maria Thorisdottir, winning a penalty in the 12th minute.

England 1-0 Norway (12): Up steps Georgia Stanway, cool as you like. Fittingly, it was White who helped Stanway replace a contact lens which came out during the goal celebrations.

Alex Scott (BBC TV pundit): Think of the pressure on her; how young she is. You’ve got players like Ellen White on the pitch, the leading goalscorer, Stanway says, ‘Nah, I’m here. I’m ready to take it’.

England 2-0 Norway (15): Just three minutes later, England exposed Norway’s left flank yet again. Lucy Bronze’s through ball found Beth Mead who teed up Lauren Hemp, compounding Norway’s misery.

Hemp: I found out I’d be starting not long ago — Sunday. Going into every game is always going to be different. I’m pleased that I get so many opportunities. It’s a credit to have such an amazing team around me as well.

There’s always going to be nerves, but the overriding feeling is excitement. For me as a player, I always thrive; I love seeing so many fans and stadiums packed. Hopefully that will continue throughout women’s football for the next few years. It felt amazing. It was an incredible result. Obviously, 8-0 is not something you see every day.

Jonas Eidevall (BBC TV pundit, Arsenal Women manager): Don’t take anything away from Mead. What a half. It’s the best performance of a wide player so far and there have been plenty before in these Euros. What I really like when I see the performance of Mead is what it means for Hemp. These two wingers are feeding self-confidence off each other.

England 3-0 Norway (29): Three within the first half-hour. This time it’s White, who finally silenced her critics, leaving Thorisdottir scrambling on the floor before slotting home.

White: We dominated, we were ruthless. I wanted to say thank you to the fans. The noise, the atmosphere was insane. Hopefully everyone watching in the stadium and at home will be really proud of this England team. Sarina has ingrained that ruthlessness into us. We really grew into the game — the momentum was unbelievable. We just kept going and going and going…

England 4-0 Norway (34): That is what is unique about this England team. They are ruthless. Hemp and Mead swapped sides like gliding dementors, haunting Norway’s defence. Their connection was crisp: Hemp’s curling cross found Mead who headed home then roared with delight.

Hemp: Especially the first half it was like every single cross that anyone put in, there was a goal. (The switches) vary, to be honest. Sometimes it’s a call from Sarina, sometimes it’s from us. Sometimes it’s just where we are on the pitch, whether Beth has taken a corner from one side and it’s just easy for me to be on the right. I like chopping and changing. Being on the right, I can do different things to what I do on the left. We’re creating a great partnership so it’s great to have that.

England 5- 0 Norway (38): As “It’s coming home…” rang round the Amex stadium, Mead shimmied and shook her way through the defence with outrageous skill for England’s fifth.

Ian Wright (BBC TV pundit): This was like Mead was on her revenge tour after being left out of the Olympic squad — a crazy decision. She has done everything right.

Mead: I keep saying it, but I can’t put it into words — honestly, I’m just loving it here, loving being part of this team, and enjoying every minute. It’s incredible to feel like I do right now. I don’t think I even dreamt of this.

England 6- 0 Norway (41): England didn’t stop — laying down their marker with perhaps France’s 5-0 half-time scoreline against Italy 24 hours earlier in mind. Stanway’s disguised pass to Fran Kirby, who crossed for White sliding in at the back post… *chef’s kiss*.

White: That first-half performance, with six goals, the football that we played, the crowd, was incredible. To do it in the European Championship was amazing for us. It’s indescribable. Everyone knows how much I love playing for England, how much pride I feel and it’s just incredible to see your team-mates scoring, to be involved and contribute to this England team. It was like euphoria.

The sea of red-shirted Norway fans around the Amex press box — including Barcelona defender Marta Torrejon, who was supporting club team-mate Graham Hansen — were silenced.

Maren Mjelde (Norway captain): The feeling at the beginning was a good atmosphere. I felt good, positive. We started the game well but after 10 minutes it just collapsed a bit. We tried, even though we conceded more and more goals, to stick together. But it’s hard when the England team had momentum in the first half. I don’t really know how to stop them. At the same time, we are the ones making those errors that lead to some of the goals. We need to credit them; they’re clinical, a good team. This is how it is at the highest level.

Half-time: England 6-0 Norway: A faultless first-half display with England registering a ludicrous 4.75 xG (expected goals).

Leah Williamson (England captain): Everything we touched in the first half was golden. You have days like that — you also have days that aren’t like that. We won’t get carried away.

The most formidable 45 minutes of football from England but their aim at half-time was to keep a clean sheet.

Chloe Kelly: At half-time we said we can’t concede, we need to focus on the performance.

In the Norwegian dressing room, it was a very different atmosphere and former Norway international John Arne Riise did not hold back on the BBC.

Arne Riise (BBC TV pundit): It’s pathetic. The body language, the will to fight for your country… tactically all over the place, defensive mistakes all over the place. Defending? Horrible. I was sitting in the stands at 2-0 and I said, ‘This could be ugly’ and it was unbelievably shocking to see how bad Norway were in the first half. When you see the players looking at the coach’s bench and asking, ‘Who should pick (up) who?’, that means England is doing extremely well in positioning with and without the ball, and Norway don’t know what to do without the ball. This is demoralising and I’m glad I’m not in that dressing room now.

Mjelde: When you are 6-0 down, you know it’s going to be really hard to get back into getting a good result. It was more about playing for our honour. That’s what we agreed to do. (Communication) gets harder when I feel we’re spread apart. England come into the corridors really easily and then it’s hard to defend against such a good team with a lot of good movement. It was hard out there.

With the second half underway, England substitutes were watching on, itching to be part of the action. Over 13 minutes either side of the hour mark, Wiegman sends on Ella Toone, Alessia Russo and Kelly. The crowd bellowed ‘Toooooonnneee’ in such a daunting fashion it sounded like boos.

Toone: I didn’t really hear anything. I was zoned in and ready to go on and just enjoy the game. But we did hear the crowd loud and proud throughout the game. It was amazing to watch from the side as well. It was so good to just come on and enjoy our football. We played with that bit of freedom and confidence. It was nice to get on and do what I like doing.

England 7- 0 Norway (66): Russo had an instant impact with a towering header.

Russo: We haven’t been as ruthless as we would have liked… but tonight we were everything and more. Everything we shot on target, almost, went in. It’s a starting point of where we want to continue to grow. As a striker, you’re always looking to be in and around the action. Goals and assists is what you look for. I was just looking to enjoy it. I love playing for England and representing the three lions. The goals were all so different, everyone took their chances.

England 8- 0 Norway (81): Alex Greenwood, who came on for Rachel Daly at left-back, ricocheted one off the bar. Bronze, who was much improved, hit a low drive. Jill Scott, the box-to-box engine sent on for Stanway in the final 10 minutes, and Keira Walsh, England’s lynchpin, all wanted a piece of the action. It was Walsh’s deflected shot that fell to Mead to complete her hat-trick.

(Photo: Charlotte Wilson/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)

Scott: Wow! It was absolutely crazy. I’m still in shock at how big the scoreline was. A lot of the headlines will be about how good the forwards were but… our defence nullified their attacking options and really set the tone for the game. Every time we went forward, we looked so clinical.

It was such a great feeling to come on. It was a special moment for me — I was very happy to get on and be part of an incredible night that will go down in history. I was just saying to the girls, when we were in France in 2019 playing the semi-finals against America, I remember their crowd had so many American fans. Maybe the crowd is playing a big part in that, obviously making the opposition nervous and because it does have that effect.

Williamson: My job today was to be a defender. The girls obviously did their job up top, so it’s important we did the same. To come out with a clean sheet, especially after half-time… they (Hegerberg, Reiten and Graham Hansen) are world-class players, all three of them. It’s a good performance at both ends of the pitch.

Gemma Davison (Columnist for The Athletic, speaking on The Athletic Women’s Football Podcast): I was really impressed with England, because they wanted more goals. That’s what everyone has been saying about the manager. She is determined to make sure that even if they are winning 20-0, they want to win 24-0. That is the sign of champions right there, if you have that mentality — to not feel sorry for your opponent and keep hammering them until it’s 90 minutes and it’s done. I’m really impressed by England, as much as it’s difficult for Norway at the same time.

Wiegman knows the importance of connecting with the fans and invited her players to parade on the pitch in front of the 28,847 crowd.

Meanwhile, for Norway it was a night of humiliation. Their footballing juggernauts are not used to losing. They looked dejected. The more experienced players had a steely look in their eyes, the youngsters were visibly upset.

Hegerberg: Tough night at work.

“Angry? Frustrated?,” asks The Athletic.

Obviously. A lot of emotions. Shouldn’t have allowed ourselves to get away with an 8-0 loss. That’s not how we want to represent ourselves. I’m a little bit lost for words, really.

Graham Hansen: You’re disappointed of course. It’s devastating to be part of the worst historic result in the Norwegian football game when it comes to tournaments like the Euros or World Cup. It is not how we wanted it to go. Of course, I’m disappointed. It hurts in the pride of representing Norway that we lose 8-0.

It’s not good enough. We did some tactical changes to try and make it easier for us. We only conceded two goals in the second half but we weren’t creating anything so it’s not exactly a lot better in the second half, even though we didn’t concede as many in the first.

The problem is we didn’t do what we were supposed to do in defence. When you don’t do well in defence, you don’t have good positioning to win the ball and play out enough.

Today, we didn’t work as a team. You see that each and every one of us are not able to perform.

Mjelde: I feel our hearts are bleeding a bit today. We faced a really good team, but at the same time we underperformed. You need to turn up at games like this or else you get punished like we did. In the second half, we conceded fewer goals but it was more about playing for our country. We probably disappointed a lot of people today and we’re not proud of that. We need to look ahead. It’s painful right now. Sometimes football is really brutal.

Thorisdottir: We’re not sticking together, we’re not playing the game we planned to play. That’s how I feel. At half-time, we said, ‘Forget about the first half. Stick together and go out there and do our best’.

Julie Blakstad (defender): I’m disappointed and I’m embarrassed. It’s 8-0 and we go from here with nothing and it’s not good enough. As a team, we didn’t do anything that we agreed on before the game. Losing 8-0 in a Euros game is embarrassing. There’s so much to improve and that’s the beauty of it. There’s still a long way to go.

So how will Norway bounce back?

Hegerberg: By being brutally honest with ourselves — what went wrong, what we need to do to get in the saddle again. We’ve got one group game left. We need to win that one to qualify. We should be much, much better than this.

Graham Hansen: We just have to rest, have a good night’s sleep, analyse it tomorrow and, in your head, move on. We can’t do too much more. We have a game on Friday again. If we want to win that, we have to leave emotions behind. Otherwise, it’s going to be hard to beat Austria.

While Norway reflected hard, trolleys of pizzas, Greek and Caesar salads and lemon sponge cake were rolled towards the England dressing room, where the ice baths were underway and the bass thumping.

Mary Earps (goalkeeper): Most of the music was Mamma Mia but anything that is going to get the group singing. They just want singalongs after that. Rach Daly loves to hit a high note. There’s a particular song that she likes. I don’t know the name of it. The bad singers keep quiet. Rachel loves to get up and dance, but mostly sing. She really fancies herself as a singer. We’re all joining her. We want to enjoy nights like this and make memories as a group of players. But ultimately, tomorrow it’ll be back to business and focus. Leah is the DJ. She likes to mix it up, she’s very eclectic in her music. (England listened to Britpop classic Common People by Pulp ahead of the game).

Russo: We’ve had some ABBA on in the changing room. Rachel (Daly) has given us song and dance. We enjoy the little wins in the tournament — it’s nice to celebrate, realise what you’ve done, but tomorrow we’ll be back training, recovering and ready for Northern Ireland (on Friday in Southampton).

Toone: We had some bangers on. Rach Daly was singing some Celine Dion. Everyone’s buzzing and we can’t wait for the next game already.

Wiegman, although thankful for the music, knows it is only in the final that the winner takes it all:

“It is three points if you win 1-0 or 8-0. We didn’t win anything yet.”

(Top photo: Lynne Cameron — The FA/The FA via Getty Images)


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