Beth Mead’s first-half strike was enough for Sarina Wiegman’s side to pick up three points at the home of Manchester United. The Lionesses have never won a major international tournament and are hoping to end their wait later this month.
England’s next clash is against Norway at The Amex on Monday before their final group game against Northern Ireland at St Mary’s on July 15. Here, Mirror Football list the five main talking points from a nervy tournament opener for the host nation.
The nation expects
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England were backed to get their Women’s Euros campaign off to a flying start against Austria thanks to their impressive recent form. The Lionesses had never lost under manager Sarina Wiegman heading into the tournament opener, a run stretching 14 games.
They won all three of their warm-up games, including a 5-1 triumph against reigning champions the Netherlands. With 75,000 in attendance at Old Trafford and millions more watching at home, supporters were expecting a comprehensive win at Old Trafford.
Wiegman’s side were happy to deliver a victory… but it wasn’t easy. They took the lead after 16 minutes with Mead poking the ball over Austria goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger, who represents Arsenal at club level. Fran Kirby deserves credit for picking Mead out.
Mead’s opener was followed by a huge cheer, something that isn’t heard often at Old Trafford. Man Utd jokes aside, it was a great moment for the home fans. England will be confident it’s finally ‘coming home’ – 40 years after the first Women’s Euros was held.
Quicker starts required
It remained 1-0 at the interval and Wiegman will be concerned by that. England scored 12 goals in their three warm-up games but only two of those came during the opening 45 minutes. The Lionesses need to start games quicker as better teams could punish them.
“It’s an uncomfortable scoreline, 1-0,” said former England goalkeeper Rachel Brown-Finnis on BBC commentary. “England haven’t been at their best, Wiegman will remind them of that at half-time.”
WSL shows class
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It’s been four years since the WSL became a fully professional league and the impact of that decision was obvious just before half-time. Lauren Hemp, the four-time PFA Young Player of the Year, should’ve scored… but Zinsberger stood tall to make a superb save.
The WSL hasn’t just improved the England team – it’s made a huge impact on the global women’s game. All European nations – including Austria – need to professionalise their respective leagues. Expect more non-English WSL stars to impress this month.
Al-Bright on the night
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England were the best side at Old Trafford, yet they’ll be hoping to take the game to Norway in their next fixture. They let Austria have a couple of opportunities – with Mary Earps making some good saves under pressure – and perhaps should’ve been punished.
Wiegman also has Millie Bright to thank for denying the Austrians. The Chelsea defender put in a commanding performance at the back, yet that’s just what England fans have come to expect. Bright will be hoping the attackers can make her life easier in future.
Strength in depth
England’s starting XI is good, yet they’ve also got a quality bench. Champions League winners Nikita Parris and Alex Greenwood, Man Utd youngsters Ella Toone and Alessia Russo and veteran Jill Scott were not required from the outset – such is England’s depth.
As former England winger Sue Smith told Mirror Football: “I think that’s the strength we have – that we do have strength in depth, that we do have quality from the bench to make an impact and change things. Maybe that’s not really been the case in the past.
“We have that now. Sarina Wiegman is not afraid to make changes if she needs to. Doesn’t matter who it is… if they’re not performing or not playing how she wants them to play, she’ll change that up.
“When you want to go to the latter stage of a competition, you have to have a strong squad because you’re going to have to rotate and rest players. I think when you’re bringing players on and they’re making it even better, that’s got to be a huge boost.”
England should have more than enough quality and quantity to comfortably reach the latter stages of the tournament. Reaching that Wembley final on July 31 – in front of 90,000 spectators – has to be the target. Winning those big games will be the real test.