Simply irresistible. England were on the front foot from the first second to the last and produced by far the most impressive performance of the tournament so far, pummelling Scotland 6-0.
Before this – the last game of the first set of group games – the tournament had been characterised by the big teams (Norway, Germany and France) playing within themselves, picking up just one win between the three of them. Not so with England, who are the only team in the tournament so far to have scored more than two goals, let alone three, four or five.
How refreshing to see an England team that doesn’t do that; a side that shows no fear, plays to its strengths, and absolutely nails it.
This England team played to such a high standard that I can’t wait to see them play their next game, which comes on Sunday evening against the competition’s next-most impressive team so far, Spain. That is an unfamiliar and exhilarating feeling for an England fan; I’d almost forgotten that international football could produce feelings other than resignation, frustration and boredom.
It’s early days, but I’m incredibly excited about how far this team can go. If you fancy joining me in boundless glee, read the rest of my thoughts here.
Mark Sampson and his strength in depth
A six-goal win without injured key defender Casey Stoney, and with a bench containing Izzy Christiansen (the 2016 PFA Player of the Year) and Karen Carney (perhaps the most consistently excellent player in the WSL over the past three years). Even Jill Scott picking up a needless late yellow card won’t faze Sampson too much.
Scary thing about this England squad is she wouldn't be missed for a game. The squad has to be one of, if not the strongest in depth.
— Chris Donald (@ChrisDonald92) July 19, 2017
England’s first major tournament hat-trick since Gary Lineker vs Poland at the 1986 World Cup, and the first treble for any team at the Women’s Euros since 1997. Taylor’s running was perfect all game, and that little dinked finish for the third goal was gloriously cheeky.
An up-and-coming side, the hosts’ opening game put them up against Norway, who have long been a force to be reckoned with in this competition and finished as runners-up to Germany last time out.
For the uninitiated, the best player in the world, Lyon’s Ada Hegerberg, is Norwegian; she has scored 127 goals in 128 games so far in her club career, having just turned 22 last week.
By contrast, this is just the Netherlands’ fourth major tournament appearance (though they did reach the semi-finals in a reduced tournaments format in 2009).
A tricky game, then – but they were able to give a Dutch record crowd of 21,732 plenty to get excited about with a 1-0 win.
Yes, Norway were sluggish, but the Dutch were vibrant, energetic and incisive throughout, and but for some wasteful finishing from Vivianne Miedema, they would have won by comfortably more than a single Shanice Van de Sanden goal. If this opening showing in their trickiest group game is anything to go by, they may just be on for another tilt at the semis.
The perfect professional performance against the competition’s weakest side, Portugal: get into third gear, score twice before half time, withdraw key players from action, and play out the game at walking pace to preserve energy for Sunday’s clash with England.
Oh, and this pass. From a centre-back. Oof.
This Andrea Pereira pass for Spain's opener is just 👌👌👌 pic.twitter.com/mfHJFPqX0I
— Steven Chicken (@StevenChicken) July 19, 2017
When your opening group game is against the side who have won seven out of eight Women’s Euros, you’re forgiven for playing cautiously.
Sweden put on an exemplary defensive performance to hold tournament favourites Germany to a goalless draw, and should even have had a second-half penalty for Josephine Henning’s clear foul on substitute Stina Blackstenius. Sweden should be more than happy with a richly deserved point.
France’s lucky escape
Like Germany and Norway, many people’s favourites to win the tournament looked laboured and frustrated against Iceland. Unlike Germany and Norway, they won, with Eugenie Le Sommer scoring from the spot after a brainless foul from Elin Metta Jensen just minutes after the Icelander’s introduction from the bench.
Surprise 2-1 winners and survivors of a thrilling late onslaught in which Italy scored, had a goal disallowed, and forced what may well be the save of the tournament out of Tayana Shcherbak. That all happened from the 88th minute on. Good work, Russia.
😮😮😮 THAT match-winning late save by @WomenRussia GK Shcherbak 🇷🇺
— UEFA Women's EURO (@UEFAWomensEURO) July 17, 2017
Sluggish, sluggish Norway
Offered absolutely nothing against the Netherlands in the opening game and were deservedly beaten. Hegerberg was totally anonymous, and the whole team played as if schlepping through rice pudding.
With Demark beating Belgium in the other game in Group A, Norway now have zero margin for error. If they keep performing like this they’ll be going home after the group stages.
Sweden were excellent, but holders and favourites Germany looked totally lost for ideas from about the 30th minute. Their star player and captain, Lyon’s Dzsenifer Marozsan, tried her hand at about four different positions during the course of the game, but nothing helped Germany overcome a stern Swedish defence and the heroic goalkeeping of Chelsea’s Hedvig Lindahl.
It’s tempting to say they need to find the right position for the versatile and incredibly talented Marozsan, and indeed I have; but more importantly, they need their other players to step up and allow their double-treble-winning skipper to feel like she doesn’t have to do it all by herself.
Nobody expected them to get anything against England, but conceding six in your first major tournament appearance must really, really hurt.